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How UT students are innovating affordable housing

School of Architecture graduate students from University of Texas plan big and win bigger for their efforts to redesign aging public housing.

university of texas

For the last three years HUD’s Innovation in Affordable Housing competition has focused on these three simple objectives and is intended to encourage research and innovation in affordable housing, to raise practitioner and future practitioner capacity, and to foster cross-cutting team-work within the design and community development process. Multi-disciplinary graduate student teams are asked to create innovative solutions involving design, planning, and finance.


Creativity and sustainability

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced a graduate student team from the University of Texas at Austin the winners of HUD’s third annual Innovation in Affordable Housing Student Design and Planning Competition.

The Austin team is comprised of School of Architecture graduate students Sarah Simpson, Megan Recher, Brianna Garner Frey, and Tatum Lau, along with graduate student Brett Clark from the McCombs School of Business.

The group presented their final project April 19 at HUD headquarters in Washington, D.C. They defeated finalists from the University of Kansas, Harvard University and the University of Maryland at College Park. The winners were one of the four team finalists to develop a plan to redevelop the public housing project Monteria Village in Santa Barbara, California.

Public housing in need of a facelift

HACSB’s Monteria Village is composed of 28 family units, built in 1973. The Housing Authority is in the process of rehabilitating and preserving its aging HUD Assisted Public Housing portfolio, long suffering from continual Congressional budget cuts to the HUD funding necessary for their proper upkeep, to promote and ensure their viability for future generations.

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The design competition challenged multi-disciplinary teams of graduate students to consider the complex challenges associated with rehabbing the current structure or demolishing it and creating new construction.

According to HUD’s web portal, “These student participants needed to consider design, community development, and financing elements in order to provide an all-encompassing plan and solution that would allow the housing authority to meet its goal of offering safe and sustainable affordable housing to area families.” Coming up with a winning proposal meant that students also need to understand the needs of the intended residents, the zoning restrictions, and leveraging opportunities.

And the winners are…

The University of Texas at Austin team will receive a $20,000 award and the runner-up team from the University of Maryland will receive $10,000. The competition jurors praised the Austin team members for their “Sophisticated site plan that connects homes and social space.”

The team also received very high marks for their water conservation plans and their plans to include an education center which will provide school and job training to address the needs of the community.


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Written By

Nearly three decades living and working all over the world as a radio and television broadcast journalist in the United States Air Force, Staff Writer, Gary Picariello is now retired from the military and is focused on his writing career.


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