Posts Tagged ‘Social Housing’

The Architecture of Affordable Housing, by Sam Davis

March 7, 2009

The Architecture of Affordable Housing
By Sam Davis

The Architecture of Affordable Housing is a thoroughly researched 208 page book which focuses on affordable housing in the USA, with occasional comparison examples from other countries such as Canada, France, and Italy.

Sam Davis’ book has illustrations on most pages, consisting of scores of photographs, building plans, neighborhood plans, 3d schematics, all carefully chosen to illustrate his analyses. He defines affordable housing as ‘housing that receives direct or indirect financial assistance’ such as subsidy, grant, tax credit, or land donation. He compares American affordable housing, with the European concept of ‘social housing’, which ‘implies that a responsible and humane society has an obligation to assist those of its members who could not otherwise have decent housing.

Sam Davis, a Professor of Architecture at University of California Berkeley, first discusses the function of the architect in affordable housing, as a reformer, a community activist, community development corporations, and discusses various goals and strategies for affordable housing design. Next, he discusses the actual process of creating affordable housing, including the conduct of public meetings, the development process, the ‘ripple effect’ of individual design decisions on other aspects of a program, grassroots activities, building by consensus, planning board meetings, NIMBY, economic financial and political negations to achieve a positive outcome.

Davis next discusses issues regarding creation of affordable housing, such as cost and durability factors, community, site issues, prefabrication issues, contractors, regulations and codes, societal values and expectations for affordable housing. Next, he reviews a variety of affordable housing projects, comparing and contrasting, discussing issues such as density, design, attached or separate, materials and forms, planning for community, ‘making small seem large’, flexibility, ornamentation and detailing, automobiles and pedestrian paths, including several detailed case studies.

In a significant part of the book, Davis rhetorically asks the question, ‘is affordable housing significant architecture?’ and discusses ‘excellence and affordable housing’ with numerous detailed examples, including photographs and plans.

Sam Davis’ The Architecture of Affordable Housing, is a significant book for every affordable housing practitioner, and well worth its purchase. Davis has numerous significant thoughts and recommendations which are timely and useful for affordable housing creation.

By David Hoicka


New Directions in Urban Public Housing, David P. Varady, Wolfgang F.E. Preiser, and Francis P. Russell, Editors

March 7, 2009

New Directions in Urban Public Housing
David P. Varady, Wolfgang F.E. Preiser, and Francis P. Russell, Editors.

This is a thoughtful and useful book containing 12 chapters in 287 pages written by top notch experts in the housing field, whose views are timely, carefully stated with great detail and historical perspective.

First, the book provides a careful and thorough review of public housing history, showing how we got where we are, and why. Second, the book reviews important social issues for public housing, including resident empowerment, and what happens when different groups are mixed together such as elderly and dysfunctional youth. Third, the book reviews public housing design issues in detail with examples. Fourth is a detailed discussion of public housing revitalization, and a thoughtful discussion of alternative strategies for public housing success. Fifth proposes numerous policy directions for moving forward.

This book is an essential part of the library of public housing and social housing practitioners, who are concerned with achieving the best possible results in affordable housing for lower income families in today’s society.

The contents of New Directions in Urban Public Housing are the following:

A. Historical perspectives
1. Alexander von Hoffman, ‘High ambitions: the past and future of American low-income housing policy’
2. Peter Marcuse, ‘Mainstreaming public housing: a proposal for a comprehensive approach to housing policy’

B. Social issues
3. William Peterman, ‘The meanings of resident empowerment: why just about everybody thinks it’s a good idea, and what it has to do with resident management’
4. Leonard F. Heumann, ‘Assisted living in public housing: a case study of mixing frail elderly and younger persons with chronic mental illness and substance abuse histories’

C. Design issues
5. Karen A. Franck, ‘Changing values in US public housing policy and design’
6. David M. Schnee, ‘An evaluation of Robert Pitts Plaza: a post-occupancy evaluation of new public housing in San Francisco’

D. Comprehensive approaches to public housing revitalization
7. Gayle Epp, ‘Emerging strategies for revitalizing public housing communities’
8. Lawrence J. Vale, ‘Public housing redevelopment: seven kinds of success’

E. Future directions
9. Richard Best, ‘Successes, failures, and prospects for public housing policy in the United Kingdom’
10. Mary K. Nenno, ‘New directions for federally assisted housing: an agenda for the Department of Housing and Urban Development’
11. Irving Welfeld, ‘Gatreaux: baby steps to opportunity’

F. Epilogue
12. James G. Stockard, Jr., ‘Public housing – the next sixty years?’

By David Hoicka

Public Housing That Worked, by Nicholas Dagen Bloom

March 6, 2009

Public Housing That Worked: New York in the Twentieth Century.

by Nicholas Dagen Bloom, an associate professor at the New York Institute of Technology

An excellent history of New York public housing and lessons learned.

Nicholas Bloom’s book Public Housing That Worked is a fascinating and detailed history of public housing in New York from the tenements of the early 1900s to current theories and practices on social housing almost a century later.  I own this book. 

There are no easy solutions for affordable housing for hundreds of thousands of lower-income metropolitan New York residents.  Professor Bloom’s book focuses on drawing lessons learned from NYCHA to see what has worked and what needs improvement.  At 354 pages with hundreds of footnotes and index, this book is a good resource for the affordable housing community and future housing programs.

Professor Bloom’s book discusses how good housing management practices are crucial to successful public housing and social housing programs.  He notes that effective management includes both regular maintenance and “keeping patronage to a minimum, holding employees and tenants responsible for their behavior, seeking private sector help where necessary, and using politics to build and protect housing”. 

David Hoicka