When affordable housing looks good
Affordable housing is often plain at best. But it doesn't have to be, as illustrated in a new article at Atlantic Cities.
With five examples from across the country, author Alison Arieff shows how affordable housing can be a handsome asset to a community.
I couldn't help but notice that the projects she highlights are also energy-efficient, artist-friendly, built with community green space, transit-oriented, and/or connected to social services. So the same folks thinking about the esthetics of their new development are also thinking comprehensively.
"Punitive by Design"?
Arieff starts the paper with a few images of some really bland Section 8 garages in her San Francisco neighborhood. She writes:
"This soul-sapping approach to aesthetics is par for the course for affordable housing, which is meant not only to look low-budget but also low-effort. Conventional thinking on affordability proceeds from the misguided premise that anything well-designed will be, and look, expensive so it follows that design should not be a priority. Further, the argument goes, anything well-designed will be too appealing to eligible to tenants, thus discouraging them from ever leaving. So affordable housing should not only be cheap, it should look cheap. As a result, much affordable housing is more punitive than homey, by design."
That's a strong statement: That affordable housing typically looks cheap not only because there isn't much money or an eye for good design. It's done on purpose, to make the units unappealing.
Does that ring true to you? Is most affordable housing ugly by design?
Posted in Affordable Housing, Thinking Out Loud