Disruptive Design Competition: New solutions for affordable housing

10.01.2018

Disruptive Design

A new architecture competition asks architects to disrupt conventional housing design, creating next-generation starter homes

OCTOBER 1, 2018—Where have all the starter homes gone? Rising costs associated with building new homes for Chicagoans – from skyrocketing land values to unpredictable construction costs – have led to fewer starter homes on the market and a sense that new homes are only available to those with considerable financial means. To help rebuild this vital housing stock, a committee of allied organizations has launched Disruptive Design: a design competition that challenges architects to envision forward-thinking, viable solutions of building affordable housing.

Disruptive Design is a three-part competition that was organized by the Chicago Housing Policy Task Force—a group of organizations invested in creating affordable housing in Chicago —including Neighborhood Housing Services (NHS), LISC Chicago, AIA Chicago, Northern Trust and CNI Group.

The competition invites architects from anywhere in the world to submit ideas and designs for building affordable starter homes at a low price—under $150 per square foot. The total sales price for each home, in this case, would not exceed $250,000. The task force is working alongside Chicago Alderman Walter Burnett (Ward 27) and Alderman Pat Dowell (Third Ward) to produce affordable, replicable and dynamic housing prototypes on city-owned vacant lots in their wards.

Disruptive Design requires submissions to meet rigorous accessibility, environmental sustainability and social sustainability goals: entrants are asked to incorporate a flexible space that would accommodate a wealth-building component for the owner and their community—a live/work space or rentable unit.

“The rising cost of construction has made it difficult to create new infill housing that is affordable to working families.” said Kristin Faust, President of NHS. “We are challenging architects to submit innovative designs that meet this need and provide opportunities for families to build wealth through homeownership, rental income, or flexible live-work space.”

“Architects understand the challenges with new construction,” said Zurich Esposito, Exec. Vice President of AIA Chicago. “But they also possess a deep understanding of design and innovative materials. We’re engaging architects to use their tools, knowledge, and resources to push forward new ways to building affordable housing.”

The problem of affordable housing is not unknown to both gentrifying and developing communities: In gentrifying areas, land values rise with desirability; in underserved areas, depreciated property and land values produce an appraisal gap that prohibits new development.That, coupled with high construction costs and labor shortages make new, affordable home construction difficult, requiring unsustainable subsidies.

Alderman Burnett called the competition a “great idea,” noting that architects must be challenged to create “not only the best-looking, but most affordable” proposal possible for working families. “These designs will fill an important gap in the market in my ward,” he explained.

The competition officially opens November 15 for a general questions period. Phase I, a written phase, opens December 1–January 31, 2019. Five winners selected by an elite jury will move on to the design phase; each of the five will receive a competitive cash prize to complete drawings. The winning selection will be announced in mid-2019, and will receive a cash prize.

More information will be released in the coming weeks, including the full competition brief.