Public Design Commission Releases Design Strategies to Improve Affordable Housing in NYC

Public Design Commission Releases Design Strategies to Improve Affordable Housing in NYC

As part of the city’s goal to increase the number of affordable living options within the city, the city’s Public Design Commission recently published new design guidelines to help ensure these new developments feature exemplary architecture and beauty for residents to enjoy. As such, the goal is to create housing that serves as the “backbone for equity, resiliency, sustainability and health.”

Developed with the help of the Fine Arts Federation of New York and the New York Chapter of the AIA, the report entitled “Designing New York: Quality Affordable Housing” offers guidelines for site planning, building materials, window and door placement, ground floor usage, façade design, outdoor space, circulation and massing. By using case studies, the report illustrates how these guidelines have been successfully incorporated into other projects.

One such example of affordable housing that incorporated stylish design elements is Arbor House in the South Bronx. Featuring a courtyard with exercise equipment, a rooftop greenhouse and metalwork inspired by plants, the apartment complex offers 124 affordable units featuring wood floors and natural light. The seven-story Frost Street Apartments serves as another example, with all of its 47 units being affordable and priced for people earning 50, 60, or 80 percent of the area median income. In addition to implementing mechanical systems on the upper floors to prevent water damage from flooding, the building boasts high-performance windows and extra insulation for energy efficiency. The architects also used setbacks to break up the mass, varied the depths of the windows and clad the façade in different materials.

Taking a Multi-Tiered Approach to Address Housing Issues

As part of his “Housing New York” plan launched in 2014, Mayor Bill De Blasio has taken a multi-tiered approach toward achieving his goal of preserving 200,000 units of affordable housing by 2024. This includes offering a combination of land use and zoning changes, public-private partnerships and tax incentives. So far, the program has generated 87,557 affordable units while also upping its goal in 2017 to have 300,000 units by 2024. The administration hopes that taking a closer look at design strategies will further help the city meet this new goal.

Many of the new affordable housing developments within the city will be developed on vacant land that the city will continue to own or on land the city sells to developers. On the land that is still owned by the city, development will need to be approved by the PDC. By issuing these new guidelines, the PDC hopes to encourage great design while also maintaining transparency with the public, design consultants and other city agencies. The agency also hopes the guidelines will help to make the approval process for new developments faster by making expectations clear upfront.

With its “Quality Affordable Housing” guidelines, the PDC also hopes to demonstrate how thoughtful design can impact residents while making the rest of the city better. Rather than simply focusing on investors and profits, the goal is to put more thought into creating affordable housing that can impact everyone in a positive manner.