Press Releases 11.04.2021

Perkins&Will Offers Guidance to Developers of Affordable Housing with New Health-Based Toolkit

Funded by a $20,000 ASID Foundation Grant, a team of public health experts and researchers has assembled best design practices.

After a year of intensive research, Perkins&Will’s Housing Affordability Task Force has published a practical guide for developers and government organizations that want to transform affordable housing. “Healthy Affordable Housing: The Toolkit,” is a nearly 150-page resource that can help improve the health and well-being of residents through holistic design strategies. Its guidance is urgently needed in the wake of the public health crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We found that residents in affordable housing faced health disparities even before the pandemic started, but their resilience helped them to persevere during this health crisis.” says Dr. Erika Eitland, a public health expert who co-leads the Perkins&Will Housing Affordability Task Force and serves as the director of the firm’s Human Experience (Hx) Lab. “We want design to support these residents no matter what circumstances they face. Our community partners’ knowledge was essential to coming up with holistic strategies to support health and affordability in these environments.”

“By examining real people and real communities, we can be sure our work addresses the needs of people living in affordable housing. As we look to support equitable and inclusive design, ASID Foundation is particularly proud to have awarded a research grant to fund this project, which is making a difference.”

— Gary Wheeler, CEO of ASID

Funded by a $20,000 American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) Foundation Research Grant, the Toolkit is divided into two main parts: first, a series of actions developers can take to emphasize health and well-being in both renovations and new projects; second, a compendium of case studies demonstrating how these actions reduce the impacts of a public health crisis.

“By examining real people and real communities, we can be sure our work addresses the needs of people living in affordable housing,” says Gary Wheeler, CEO of ASID. “As we look to support equitable and inclusive design, ASID Foundation is particularly proud to have awarded a research grant to fund this project, which is making a difference.”

Northtown Library and Apartments supports older residents' mental health by promoting interaction with other community members in public areas.

A Set of Four, Easy-to-Use “Tools” 

Four assets in the Toolkit help ensure the creation and operation of healthy affordable housing: 

  • “Housing Affordability 101” is a primer for understanding the definition of affordable housing, the different types of affordable housing, and developmental and operational strategies  
  •  “Eight Guiding Principles” act as a framework to put the residents’ experience at the center of affordable housing design. Each principle can be modified according to a given type of housing, program, and population.  
  • “Existing Resources for Designing Healthy, Affordable Housing” includes research and information from leading think tanks for developers to reference.  
  • “The Future of Home” is a 15-minute downloadable questionnaire that developers can use to plan real estate projects that offer affordable housing. Perkins&Will’s Housing Affordability Task Force created, tested, and deployed this survey to inform the Toolkit’s “Eight Guiding Principles.” 

Six Case Studies as Living Examples 

Six case studies offer an opportunity to learn from existing developments, including how housing project designers and operators can support their residents’ well-being.  

The locations of the projects that served as case studies are diverse in terms of geography, size, program, resident makeup, and context. They include:  

  • Wyoming Community Development Authority in Casper, Wyoming 
  • Progress Foundation in San Francisco 
  • Lafayette Terrace Apartments and Northtown Library and Apartments in Chicago (designed by Perkins&Will) 
  • Sugar Hill Project in New York City’s Harlem neighborhood 
  • Beach Green Dunes II in Far Rockaway, New York 

Healthy Homes for All

To create the Toolkit, the Housing Affordability Task Force conducted a national survey and over 20 meetings with community stakeholders that focused on daily life, health, and safety in affordable housing developments at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

“This is about creating quality interior spaces so everyone has a safe, healthy, affordable place to live,” says Stephen Messinger, senior project architect and Task Force co-leader. “We all need to be active participants and partners, working together for the common good. We have a unique opportunity to leverage our skills, expertise, and voices, putting design as the driver to make safer living conditions for all.”   

Explore the Healthy Affordable Housing Toolkit by clicking this link.

Northtown Library and Apartments provides the community a civic space, an essential part of a healthy, affordable housing experience.