Building Better Affordable Homes
How to increase style and efficiency on a modest budget.
Synopsis: Affordable homes are a key component for any community, large or small, urban or rural. Unfortunately, affordable housing often becomes synonymous with unattractive, uninteresting construction. For a project in Portland, Ore., architect Keyan Mizani worked with Portland Community Reinvestment Initiatives to create an affordable, attractive pair of row houses in a developed neighborhood. Built around open floor plans to increase a sense of spaciousness, the houses have high-quality finishing details such as cork flooring, glass- and ceramic-tile backsplashes, and cabinets with bamboo facing. Variations in the rooflines differentiate the houses from their neighbors and make them appear not to be monolithic. A high-efficiency air-source heat pump provides heating and cooling.
Portland, Ore., is known for dense, vibrant neighborhoods. A key component of the vitality of our community is the preservation and development of affordable housing. Affordable homes give people with lower incomes the opportunity to live in a community with rising property values. Despite having to work with a limited budget, I believe affordable housing must be well designed and well built; it must look good and be built to last. Being cost-conscious is essential. However, that should not mean cutting corners, because short-term savings and gains often can result in greater long-term costs. This holds true whether designing multifamily or single-family homes.
This multifamily row-house project is for first-time homebuyers earning 80% or less of area median income, so it was important to avoid passing on higher future operating and maintenance costs. The nonprofit developer, Portland Community Reinvestment Initiatives, was committed to creating attractive, high-quality, efficient, durable homes, and it invested time and money on design and planning to do it well. Working as a team, the developer, our firm, an interior designer, and a general contractor collaborated to select lasting design, material, and building systems that met…