A Winning Affordable Housing Design

Students from California Polytechnic State University recently competed in the Bank of America Low Income Housing Challenge to design the affordable community of the future. MHN speaks with Gail Lannoy, community development banking executive for the West region at Bank of America, about this challenge and about the winning entry, called Cambria Pines.

Cambria, Calif.—Students from California Polytechnic State University recently competed in the Bank of America Low Income Housing Challenge to design the affordable community of the future. MHN speaks with Gail Lannoy, community development banking executive for the West region at Bank of America, about this challenge and about the winning entry, called Cambria Pines.

MHN: Describe the Low Income Housing Challenge.

Lannoy: Created in 1992, the Bank of America Low Income Housing Challenge is a business plan competition in which university student teams work with local affordable housing developers (such as BRIDGE and Eden Housing) to create development proposals for new affordable or low-income housing projects. Those proposals are judged by a panel of jurors from the California low-income development community—often city officials, architects, community advocates and equity investors.

This year is the 22nd anniversary of the Low Income Housing Challenge, which Bank of America’s Community Development Group created to help attract top talent to the affordable housing industry. The competition also benefits communities by sharing the creativity of students’ projects with low-income housing developers, who in many cases have turned these proposals into reality.

MHN: Talk about Cambria Pines—what makes it stand out?

Lannoy: There were many impressive submissions this year, including UC Berkeley’s Laguna Farms project. The Cambria Pines proposal by Cal Poly San Louis Obispo won because it masterfully incorporated all of the elements necessary to develop affordable housing. In particular, the team’s design was appropriate for the surrounding rural environment, and it had several innovative features to reduce electricity and water usage. Among the project’s strengths:

  • A realistic budget and financing structure that incorporated local subsidies, tax-credits and conventional financing
  • A design that provided a public trail for the community to access downtown Cambria
  • Feedback from several community stakeholders, including the adjacent elementary school
  • Innovative features to reduce electricity usage, including solar panels, architectural light shelves and strategic window locations to minimize the need for air conditioning

MHN: How did this address the water shortage in the area?

Lannoy: Cambria has a severe water shortage, and as a result has had a moratorium on new construction. This project addressed the water shortage by including such conservation measures as gray water irrigation, rainwater harvesting and runoff reduction to maximize water permeation.

MHN: What happens with the winning project?

Lannoy: In some cases, the winning projects have been developed by their developer sponsors. On multiple occasions, developers have hired members of the student teams to manage the development process.

MHN: Is the design used to influence future affordable projects?

Lannoy: The designs can influence future affordable housing projects because many leaders in the field serve as consultants to the teams or judges for the competition, or they learn about project details during the awards event or afterward.