Good design can help solve homelessness: Award-winning LEED project sets example

| April 26, 2018 | 0 Comments

THE SIX balances residential privacy with on-site support services in a design that connects with the community.

Los Angeles City Council members voted unanimously last month to accelerate the city’s efforts to create more supportive housing for Angelenos in need.

The Permanent Supportive Housing Ordinance, passed on April 11, shortens the approval timeline for many supportive housing developments from five years to less than one by streamlining the planning process and removing regulatory barriers.

Supporters of the ordinance say it will ensure the successful implementation of Measure HHH, which was approved by voters in 2016.

Signing the measure into law, Mayor Eric Garcetti said that the homelessness crisis “demands that we look at using every available resource — and cut as much time as we can out of the construction timeline — for housing that we need now.”

The look

Nevertheless, the prospect of mass, streamlined construction in Los Angeles raises the question: What will permanent supportive housing look like in central and historic neighborhoods?

Well-designed, award-winning architecture might not be your first guess, but according to Mike Alvidrez, CEO of the Skid Row Housing Trust, that’s exactly what his organization is planning.

AWARD-WINNER Mike Alvidrez with Downtown Breakfast Club member, Bill Fain, of Windsor Square.

“When we do a good job, our buildings look appealing to the community,” Alvidrez told the Chronicle.

The Skid Row Housing Trust develops, manages and operates permanent and supportive housing across the city. The Trust currently offers more than 1,800 homes to individuals in need, and it has numerous projects in the pipeline for development, which will benefit from the Permanent Supportive Housing Ordinance.

Confused as to what, exactly, is permanent supportive housing? Alvidrez says that it is simply rental housing with some additional on-site social services: Residents sign a lease and pay 30 percent of their gross income for a unit.

Designed with purpose

When the Trust approaches a project, Alvidrez says that the organization is focused on the needs of the people using the building. That means designing a place that not only communicates a sense of pride and dignity, but also a place that offers supportive services.

“For us, good architectural design is something in our tool kit along with good programmatic design.”

The two things go hand-in-hand, Alvidrez explains.

Good design can provide “aspirational value” to residents as well as facilitate relevant social services that help residents identify new pursuits: “It gives them the opportunity to become productive members of a community.”

For examples of what good supportive housing can look like, Alvidrez points to the Crest Apartments in Van Nuys, the New Carver Apartments on Hope Street in DTLA, and The Six, which is located near MacArthur Park.

Designed by architectural firm Brooks + Scarpa, The Six is a 52-unit project reserved, in part, for homeless veterans that has already garnered multiple awards from the American Institute of Architects for its eco-sensitive features like low-flow water fixtures and passive design strategies that maximize natural light and airflow. The LEED Platinum certified design includes a green roof, storm water collection and solar panels.

The Six and Skid Row Housing Trust were recognized last month at the annual “Roses and Lemon” awards breakfast of the Downtown Breakfast Club.

“We are proud that those buildings don’t look like what they are — permanent supportive housing,” said Alvidrez.

“If we do a good job, the projects that we build will contribute to the local environment and, actually, they just might be the best looking buildings on the block.”

So if you hear of a supportive housing project coming to your block — fear not — it might be better designed than you expected.

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Category: Real Estate

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