The issue of affordable housing is complex and multifaceted, with numerous cost and regulatory barriers preventing the construction of new, affordable housing units. Two articles, “Why Does American Multifamily Architecture Look So Banal?” by The Architect’s Newspaper, and a Reddit post by a Los Angeles-based architect specializing in multifamily housing, shed light on some of the challenges facing developers and architects trying to build affordable housing.
The need for affordable housing in the United States has never been greater. According to a recent report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition, there are only 37 affordable and available rental homes for every 100 extremely low-income renter households. This means that millions of Americans are spending an unsustainable portion of their income on housing, leaving little left for other essentials like food, healthcare, and education.
Another issue raised in the Architect’s Newspaper article is the lack of innovation in multifamily housing design. The author argues that many new developments look the same, with bland, boxy designs that fail to inspire or excite. This lack of creativity is partly due to developers prioritizing profit over design, as they may be more likely to invest in a proven, cookie-cutter design than take a risk on something new.
One of the biggest barriers to building affordable housing is the cost of construction. As the architect in the Reddit post notes, “the biggest problem with affordable housing is that it’s not affordable to build.” This is partly due to the high cost of materials and labor, which can make it difficult to build affordable units at a price that low-income renters can afford. In addition, zoning regulations and building codes can add significant costs to the construction process, as architects and developers must adhere to strict guidelines and obtain numerous permits and approvals.
However, the article also notes that strict zoning regulations and building codes can limit the creativity of architects and developers. In New York City, for example, the majority of buildings constructed before 1961 would not be legal under current zoning laws. This can make it difficult to design unique, innovative buildings that meet the needs of both developers and the community.
Overall, the cost and regulatory barriers to building new affordable housing are significant, and require a multifaceted approach to address. Possible solutions include increased government funding for affordable housing construction, streamlining the permitting and approval process, and revisiting zoning regulations and building codes to encourage innovation while ensuring safety and livability. By working together to address these challenges, we can begin to make progress in providing affordable housing to all Americans.
Affordable housing is a pressing issue in many urban areas across the United States. As housing costs continue to rise, low-income individuals and families struggle to find safe, decent, and affordable housing options. While there is no one-size-fits-all solution to this complex problem, building new affordable housing is often seen as a key part of the solution. However, there are several cost and regulatory barriers that make it difficult to build new affordable housing, as highlighted in several articles.
One article published in The Architect’s Newspaper in March 2023, “Why does American multifamily architecture look so banal?”, argues that the design of affordable housing in the United States is often uninspired and bland. The article suggests that one reason for this is the cost constraints that developers face when building affordable housing. According to the article, affordable housing developers are often forced to use cheaper materials and simple designs to keep costs low. This can result in buildings that lack character and fail to contribute to the architectural character of a city.
Another article, published on Reddit by an architect specializing in multifamily housing in Los Angeles, highlights the regulatory barriers that make it difficult to build new affordable housing in California. The architect argues that the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and other regulations often result in lengthy and costly review processes that can delay or even prevent affordable housing projects from being built. The architect also notes that the high cost of land in urban areas can make it difficult to build affordable housing without subsidies.
A third article, published in The New York Times in 2016, “Most Buildings in NYC Would Be Illegal Today,” highlights the regulatory barriers that exist in New York City. According to the article, as many as 40 percent of buildings in Manhattan could not be built today because they do not comply with current zoning regulations. This can make it difficult to build new affordable housing in certain areas of the city, as developers may be limited in what they can build on a given piece of land.
These articles illustrate some of the challenges that developers face when building new affordable housing in urban areas. Cost constraints and regulatory barriers can make it difficult to design and build buildings that are both affordable and architecturally interesting. Additionally, the high cost of land in many urban areas can make it difficult to build affordable housing without subsidies.
Despite these challenges, building new affordable housing remains an important part of addressing the housing crisis in the United States. To make progress on this issue, policymakers, developers, and architects will need to work together to find creative solutions that address both the cost and regulatory barriers to building new affordable housing. This may include exploring alternative building materials and designs that can reduce costs without sacrificing architectural quality, as well as streamlining the regulatory review process to make it easier and less costly to build new affordable housing.
APA format references:
The Architect’s Newspaper. (2023, March 15). Why does American multifamily architecture look so banal? https://www.archpaper.com/2023/03/why-does-american-multifamily-architecture-look-so-banal
Reddit. (2017, July 7). I’m an architect in LA specializing in multifamily housing. AMA. https://www.reddit.com/r/LosAngeles/comments/6lvwh4/im_an_architect_in_la_specializing_in_multifamily/
Davies, C. J., & Flegenheimer, M. (2016, May 19). Most buildings in NYC would be illegal today. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/05/19/upshot/forty-percent-of-manhattans-buildings-could-not-be-built-today.html
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