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College Students Create Affordable Housing Designs In Los Angeles Contest

College Students Create Affordable Housing Designs In Los Angeles Contest
By Ronald Roach

Architecture students from the University of Southern California and California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, placed among the winners last month in a Los Angeles County design competition aimed at sparking the redevelopment of thousands of vacant and underutilized lots in the city. Entrants in the competition, entitled “Small Lots, Smart Designs,” were tasked with creating designs that emphasized affordability and environmental sustainability. The L.A. City Planning department and the Enterprise Community Partners, a national affordable housing development organization, sponsored the competition.

Winning designs will be built on small lots as examples of what can be constructed by developers who are interested in building affordable, “green” homes. Since the designs will already have met city standards, the actual construction costs should be lower, creating more value for the potential homeowners, say competition officials.

“‘Small Lots, Smart Designs’ coincides with record-breaking area home prices and a renewed interest in creative alternatives to the traditional suburban single-family home. It has the potential to turn many renters into homeowners through fresh, innovative and cost-effective means in the coming years,” says Bill Jones, the director of the Enterprise Community Partners’ affordable homeownership program in Los Angeles.

Students and professional architects were allowed to enter the competition. In the student category, winning entries came from Sergio Marquez, a third-year student in Cal Poly-Pomona’s school of environmental design; and from Shinju Shimizu and Jun Tanaka, seniors in USC’s School of Architecture. Marquez submitted a minimalist design making use of pre-fabricated materials for cost effectiveness. Shimizu and Tanaka impressed judges with “The Cube,” a design inspired by Japanese urban styles.

“We wanted to improve urban quality of life standards and create exciting outdoor spaces by removing the traditional courtyard and replacing it with private outdoor spaces on the homes’ second level,” Tanaka says.

The competition resulted from the L.A. Planning Department’s Small Lot Ordinance, which now enables the development of 1,650 vacant land parcels and the redevelopment of 850 substandard multi-family buildings throughout Los Angeles, including the San Fernando Valley.

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