Why the Architecture of Affordable Housing Should Not Be Overlooked

In this article, I discuss how the architecture of affordable housing plays a significant role in combatting the complex problem of housing affordability ─ commonly measured as 30% of household income.

As a starting point, we know that low-income households are at greater risk of being unable to afford housing, which can lead to homelessness or overcrowding in rental units. In addition, for some families, the costs of owning or renting a home are so high that they spend most of their income on housing and have little left over for other necessities. We build and provide affordable housing solutions to help alleviate such problems.

Now, we also know that there are many ways in which affordable housing can be structured. For example, it can be subsidized by the government, which means that the government pays part of the cost for construction, maintenance, rent, etc. 

However, the key is that homes are affordable for the people who live in them – and the architecture or affordable homes is crucial to this.

Affordable housing design concept: Functionality

Before exploring how affordable housing architecture impacts us all, we should be clear about what we need our affordable houses to deliver. Simply put, homes should provide for the basic needs of a person. 

They should give people and families a safe and warm place to live, in which they are sheltered from harsh weather.

They should also be constructed near to schools and employment opportunities, and, of course, be within easy reach of viable public transport options. They should also be accessible to shopping and recreation opportunities.

Such factors as these are not only physical but psychological. If we build affordable housing in the middle of nowhere, with no work available and poor schools for children, we do nothing to alleviate the long-term plight of low-income families.

Why is the architecture of affordable housing important?

To understand why architectural design and affordable housing layout are so significant, we must understand that we are constrained by infrastructure and budgets. 

As city populations grow, there is increasing stress on our urban infrastructure. Federal, state, and local governments must increase budgets to invest in improving and maintaining current infrastructure. To do so means raising taxes ─ including property taxes.

As populations grow, there is demand for more homes. Space to build is scarce, and real estate prices rise accordingly. Rents rise, too.

In addition, we are witnessing unprecedented rises in fuel and energy prices ─ increasing housing costs to move more people into housing poverty.

The contribution of architectural design and its ability to deliver affordable housing that addresses all these critical issues should not be underestimated.

Clever design can reduce build costs and the cost of living

Affordable housing layout in our cities is not about building higher (though this is an option, of course) ─ it’s about how well we utilize the floor space available. Good architectural design can deliver higher-density living solutions that provide space, heat, and comfortable living. 

We can design homes that benefit from a range of sustainable features that also help to reduce the cost of occupation. These may include energy efficiency features in house design, such as solar panels, natural ventilation, and shading from trees, as well as other features like rainwater collection systems. By applying the principles of permaculture to home design, we can build a more sustainable community.

Design is an essential part of any building. It can make or break the build. Clever design can reduce build costs and reduce the need for maintenance in the future. We can incorporate modern construction techniques that reduce time to build and use innovative materials that last longer and help to create more sustainable homes.

When we design homes with such key features, we create greater affordability. We deliver homes that are cheaper to build, and cheaper to live in. This positively impacts people’s lives. And when we design for efficient use of space, we reduce infrastructure impact and help to keep a lid on property taxes for all.

In summary

Good architectural design can help to create sustainable, high-density housing for low-income families that is also aesthetically pleasing. 

Architects can create homes that not only provide safety and comfort but also provide a sense of community for those who live there, in neighborhoods that deliver all our basic needs. And great affordable housing architecture will also deliver homes that are cheaper to live in, with lower energy and utility costs.

If we are serious about delivering a more equitable and prosperous society, we should not overlook the critical nature of architecture in the design of affordable housing.

At ACB Consulting, we are committed to helping improve the communities in which we live, work, and play – including how they are conceived, designed and created. To learn more, contact ACB Consulting.

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