In July 2010, a two-and-a-half-day summit on affordable housing and design will gather architects/designers and community development groups together to discuss solutions for integrating design best practices with community-based affordable housing development.

The Affordable Housing Design Leadership Institute—created by investment company Enterprise Community Partners with support from the National Endowment for the Arts, the McKnight Foundation, and the Kendeda Fund—will provide an interdisciplinary forum for eight specially invited nonprofit affordable housing developers and a panel of eight design resource team members from around the country to share their views and experiences and to address affordable housing's most critical issues on both a national and local scale. By presenting their own planned affordable housing projects to the group, participating community developers will gain a broader perspective on those projects and the issues they face.

Participants will cover a range of topics, from the most basic affordable housing challenges, such as sustainability, durability, and energy use to the more complicated issues, including regulatory roadblocks, how to accommodate changing demographics, and how to move projects forward in the current economy, according to Katie Swenson, senior director of Enterprise's Rose Architectural Fellowship and the Institute's author.

The Institute expands on the Fellowship's work of encouraging partnerships between architects and community developers, Swenson notes. The Fellowship provides three-year grants for such partnerships to implement projects that unite community-based development with best practices in design. In creating the Institute, Swenson was looking to activate a larger group partnership between practitioners and community developers to the same end.

Several architects and designers are currently scheduled to participate as members of the Institute design resource team, including Lawrence Scarpa, AIA, of Pugh + Scarpa Architects; David Baker, FAIA, LEED AP, of David Baker + Partners; Julie Eizenberg, FAIA, of Koning Eizenberg Architecture; Michael Pyatok, FAIA, of Pyatok Architects; Daniel Hernandez, AIA, of Jonathan Rose Companies; and David Rubin, ASLA, of The Olin Partnership. Also scheduled are Chris Velasco, president of nonprofit community developer Projects Linking Art, Community & Environment (PLACE); Yasmin Tong, principal of Yasmin Tong Consulting Group; Ron Moelis, CEO of L+M Development Partners; and Jess Zimbabwe, director of the Daniel Rose Center for Public Leadership in Land Use.

The Institute, which will be held at the University of Minnesota's Minneapolis campus, also will engage local residents, housing developers, community leaders, and members of tenant organizations in a public discussion of local community design and development issues. A summary of the lessons learned from major themes discussed during the summit will conclude the program. Specific dates for the July 2010 Institute are still to be determined.

According to Swenson, this could be just the first of many Affordable Housing Design Leadership Institutes. Any future Institutes would "take advantage of the fact that there are so many fantastic designers and so many people skilled in financing affordable housing and dealing with the policy issues [in the industry]," Swenson notes, and would advance the dialogue on design best practices in community development.