POV: Point of View


Oct. 2015

We joined many of our clients and colleagues working in affordable housing for the annual
SCANPH Conference on September 18.


We joined many of our clients and colleagues working in affordable housing for the annual SCANPH Conference on September 18. It was a busy, stimulating day with more panels and workshops than we could possiblly attend.  But in the sessions we did attend, and in the conversations we had with clients, we gained a clear sense of the challenges facing the affordable housing market, as well as the creative solutions that agencies, academics, developers and architects are introducing to meet the housing crisis in Southern California.  

For a look at some the ideas being discussed take a look at the video presented by panelists Ann Sewill from the California Community Foundation, Dora Gallo from A Community of Friends, Professor Michael Lens from the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, and Mike Balsamo from the Orange County Building Industry Association, answering the question, “If you had all the money and political support in the world, how would you solve California’s housing crisis?” (Video)

Listening to the discussions and talking with clients and prospective clients, we were encouraged to see that the affordable housing work we are doing at Withee Malcolm is responding to a number of the issues currently facing the market including:

Housing the homeless: Perhaps the most urgent need in many of our communities is housing for the homeless including many veterans.  Beyond providing a safe and comfortable place to live, many formerly homeless need access to other supportive social services as well as space for socialization, much like what we designed for Del Rey Senior Apartments and our newest veteran community Vermont Villas, which is designed to accommodate the disabled.

Community gathering spaces: We are incorporating multipurpose spaces that can be used for community meetings or after-school study and play and outside spaces with barbeques, tables for talking and playground equipment for kids. We are also providing room for more edible gardens in our planning. Such spaces support a sense of community and ownership as well as security for residents.

Net-zero development: Affordable housing developers are leaders in the move toward sustainability. As long-term owners they are willing to invest upfront for many years of savings for themselves and their residents. Taking advantage of incentives and utility allowances, and working with WMA on smart green design, they are able to hit the net zero goal as we did at Arbor Green.

Renovation and rehabilitation: As the region is losing more affordable housing than is being built, there is a critical need to bring older, often deteriorating, housing up to current standards. Saving properties like Jasmine Gardens and Dunbar Village keeps low-income residents in their neighborhoods, strengthens communities and protects affordable housing stock.  

While the challenges are many, the commitment of affordable housing development community is inspiring. We are proud to be part of the solution.

Soyoung C. Ward & Mauricio Munoz