Affordable Housing with High-end Design

It is estimated that for every 100 low-income renter household in the U.S., there are only 30 affordable and available units. In our hometown of Dallas, TX the poor were the fastest growing segment of Dallas’ population, increasing 41 percent from 2000 to 2012. With a national poverty rate of 14.5 percent, a renewed interest in affordable housing development could not come at a better time.

Often lumped together with other forms of low-income housing, affordable housing has suffered from the stigma of being easily identifiable by its drab and uniform exterior. These structures were often designed as barrack style buildings with dismal or nonexistent landscaping. However, there is a growing movement toward creating housing that offers both curb appeal and comes at an affordable price for renters.

According to The Wall Street Journal, developers and architects have shown interest in more high-end design as affordable housing is increasingly mixed in with middle class and even luxury homes. Additionally, as costs have increased in urban neighborhoods, more communities have adopted “inclusionary zoning” ordinances that require developers to set aside units for families of modest means.

KWA has witnessed this shift in affordable housing design first hand with projects such as The Belleview, developed by Matthews Southwest and recently completed by KWA. A public-private partnership with the City of Dallas, this mixed-use development aimed to bring much needed affordable housing options for mixed-income levels in the Cedars-South Side neighborhood of Dallas.

Hillside West Senior Living, another recently completed project by KWA, provides Dallas with not only additional affordable housing stock but also features a number of sustainable features and high-end amenities for residents to enjoy. In a recent feature on the property, Brandon Bolin, founder and CEO of Groundfloor Development, noted, “if you design very attractive housing, with good urban form, substantial landscaping and do not skimp on the cost of sustainability components, then we know from prior experience in the market rate segment, that people will want to live there and be proud of their home.”

It’s a sentiment echoed by Larry James, CEO of CitySquare, whose organization is dedicated to fighting the causes and effects of poverty. He stated that built environment matters, adding that the quality of a development is important not only to the surrounding community but also, makes a statement about the people living in that housing.

It is encouraging and inspiring to see that both locally and all across the country, architects, developers and builders are creating affordable housing that turns the stereotype of “cheap housing equals cheap design” on its head and providing housing options that working class individuals can take pride in.

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