Architecture that practices responsible land use and blends function with aesthetics to serve local needs made a strong showing in the 2010 HUD Secretary’s Housing and Community Design Awards, sponsored by HUD and the American Institute of Architects. 

"These developments challenge the old ideas about how affordable housing can fit into the fabric of their surrounding communities,” HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, an architect himself, said during an awards presentation at the AIA National Convention in Miami last week. “Helping to build vibrant, sustainable communities starts at the drawing board, and each of these developments proves that thoughtful design can create a lasting imprint on our neighborhoods."

The following four projects offer unique, innovative, and just as important--replicable--perspectives on affordable housing.

Paseo Senter at Coyote Creek
San Jose, Calif.

Located on a former pomegranate orchard and flood plain deemed unusable by the city, this once-forgotten 4.7-acre parcel of San Jose has been transformed into a welcoming environment that fulfills community needs. It includes residential units specifically reserved for single-parent households, the formerly homeless, and victims of domestic violence.

Designed with a density of 44 units per acre, the mixed-use building with the creatively spelled name places three stories of residential on top of commercial space. The development exceeds California’s already strict energy efficiency standards by 15%, resulting in very low utility bills for tenants.

This project is also pedestrian-friendly. A paseo runs from the main road to an adjacent park, widening into a public plaza in the property's center, where the entrances to apartments and pool areas are located. Bold and lively colors give the exterior facades a friendly appearance.

Award: Excellence in Affordable Housing Design
Architects: David Baker and Kevin Wilcock

Congo Street Initiative

Community involvement proved a critical ingredient in this Dallas revitalization project, which renovated six single-family and duplex houses built as rentals around 1910 and deeded to their residents by the landlord in 1933.

The Congo Street neighborhood remains tight-knit, if economically challenged. Many current residents are descendants of the initial owners and were hesitant to change homes that had been in their families for generations, even though the area appeared blighted to outsiders. To ensure that the neighborhood's character would survive the revitalization, the developers worked with community members to create a plan that would accommodate everyone involved.

That wasn't always easy. Since most neighborhood residents refused to relocate while their homes were under construction, temporary residences were built to house families during the renovations. This allowed residents to stay in the area and to monitor the restoration of their homes.

The project demonstrated some green principles as well. To utilize all possible resources, save money for the homeowners, and preserve Congo Street's history, select materials from the old houses were reclaimed and incorporated into the new homes. Three are completed, and the fourth is under construction.

Award: Community-Informed Design
Architect: Brent A. Brown

Learn more about markets featured in this article: San Jose, CA.