Whether you are looking to rent, buy, or build, national housing statistics offer a rocky outlook.
U.S. Census data shows all household formations, including ownership and rental, have slowed over the past year. According to Forbes, home prices are up 12% since last year, while home sales are down. The Architectural Billing Index indicates business conditions softened further at firms with multifamily residential specialization in May, falling to the lowest level in two years.
Demand increased for multifamily housing in 2021, according to Freddie Mac, which led to a boom in apartment building construction. The same report (“2023 Multifamily Outlook”), however, hints at struggles, suggesting “the sagging rate of completions.”
Quality housing is a basic human need and a place of solace for the soul. This need is significant for affordable housing but critical for the unhoused. As masterful problem solvers and community planners, architects have an influential voice when it comes to providing this quality housing. Where should we focus our efforts?
R. Denise Everson, assoc. AIA, leader at D.C.-based consulting service ThinkBox and a member of AIA’s Housing and Community Development Knowledge Community, believes in increased production of single-family dwellings, duplexes, two-over-two town houses, multifamily mid-rises, and garden-style buildings. She also suggests communities renovate existing housing stock near supportive services and transportation arteries, improving energy and water efficiency and sustainability.
Resilience, affordability, and zoning and land-use policy are the top three concerns shared by Adrianne Steichen, AIA, principal at Pyatok, also a member of AIA’s Housing and Community Development Knowledge Community. Echoing Everson’s calls to renovate and build to accommodate climate change, she embraces creating walkable cities and untangling political, legal, and social constructs to make affordable housing possible.
The AIA Framework for Design Excellence provides architects with a vision of what the profession strives to achieve. The Framework informs progress toward a zero-carbon, equitable, resilient, and healthy built environment, and provides practical resources.
We can also use our voice to support neighbors who do not have the privilege of hiring an architect to build or renovate a space. That is the message AIA shared when AIA EVP/CEO Lakisha Ann Woods, CAE, 2019 AIA President Bill Bates, FAIA, and I met with U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Deputy Secretary Adrianne Todman earlier this year.
We discussed how architects and design professionals can help address our country’s housing challenges. We shared AIA’s focus on sustainability and emphasized how to instill greater resilience and efficiency in affordable housing.
We must continue to advocate and be at the center of these conversations with policy makers. Architects are innovators, and collectively, as a profession, we are making an impact.