An interdisciplinary team of University of Maryland real estate, planning, business and architecture graduate students took first place in the fifth annual HUD Innovation in Affordable Housing Student Design and Planning (IAH) Competition 2018. The UMD team initially beat out over 40 teams from graduate-level programs across the U.S. for a finalist slot for their project named “Beacon Crossing,” a mixed-income, multi-age affordable housing project that doubles as a community asset.
“There is still a great need for quality affordable housing throughout the country,” said UMD real estate graduate student Daniel Green. “Beacon Crossing utilizes best practices from across the industry in terms of financing, social services, design and sustainability. Applying these innovative techniques can serve as a model for creating quality housing across the country.”
The UMD team includes: Sacheen Scott (M.C.P.), Nathan Robbins (MRED, M.B.A.), Lauren Gilmartin (M.ARCH, M.C.P.), Daniel Green (MRED) and Adan Ramos (M.ARCH, MRED). Maria Day-Marshall, Director of the Real Estate Development Program at UMD and Rob McClennan, AIA, from Bonstra | Haresign Architects are the team’s advisors.
The IAH competition is based on the philosophy that ideas and innovations from the next generation of professionals are essential to fulfilling the need for affordable, sustainable housing. The competition challenges interdisciplinary, graduate-level teams to address the social, economic and environmental issues that surround a real-world housing problem in the United States, by creating innovative and original solutions through development, design and finance.
This year’s competition asked teams to design a 154-unit housing complex, in Dover, N.H., that caters to senior citizens and adults with disabilities. The site challenges include increasing the density of the site and balancing the number of dwellings with communal supports, such as common areas, office space, security and a high level of accessibility. Beacon Crossing’s universal design placed attractive community amenities—which include a YMCA, grand plaza and community center—within the heart of the complex, a boon not just to residents but to the surrounding community, a deliberate move to draw people from the outside in.
“I think what set our design apart was that we took the time to understand the needs of the residents and the greater community,” said Green. “By locating such strong community amenities on site, we hope to eliminate the stigma of affordable housing and foster interactions and relationships across socio-economic lines.”
Creating connection was also the goal behind the innovative social programming planned for the site, geared specifically to its multi-generational, multi-ability population. A signature social service program, Beacon Buddies and Care, is a peer-to-peer support program that provides meals, housekeeping and wellness checks for community members with the most needs. Unlike typical congregate housing programs that rely on hard-to-attain federal funding, the program would be financed through a mix of voluntary monthly fees from residents, operating revenue and a social services reserve account, allowing the program to begin serving residents more quickly.
Creative financing also won the day by solving a critical project financing gap, a result of the small pool of low income housing tax credits (LIHTC) available in New Hampshire. By proposing a paired LIHTC structure, the project could take advantage of both low-income housing credits and non-competitive credits simultaneously.
"The team did an absolutely phenomenal job,” said Day-Marshall. “Not only did they present an innovative, comprehensive project, they delivered an exceptionally professional presentation. The fact that they knew the project inside and out allowed them to really engage the jury, which I think set them apart in the competition."
This is the first time the University of Maryland has won the HUD Innovation in Affordable Housing Student Design and Planning (IAH) Competition and the second time it has placed in the finals. A team of students took second place and a $10,000 prize in 2016. This year’s winning team won $20,000.
It felt great to have our hard work recognized,” said Real Estate and Business student Nathan Robbins. “It’s a nice final chapter for me at Maryland as I approach graduation this May.”