For well over a century, we as a nation have struggled to define, construct and improve housing that meets certain minimum standards for the health and welfare of residents. The challenge of the new millennium is the creation of affordable housing that improves quality of life for residents and adds value to communities.
In the 19th century, we began to regulate the design of housing, requiring that rooms in apartments have windows with access to daylight and fresh air. In the 20th century, massive federal action came to meet housing needs arising from the economic collapse of 1929. And in post war America, thousands of acres of homes were cleared for urban renewal, replaced with what became known as "the projects" - low income housing that is now in turn being razed to make way for more humane alternatives.
Slums, tenements, chain-link "cages" enclosing concrete high rises, filth, crime, and racial segregation: Such often frightening visions illustrate the later chapters of the affordable housing story in our cities and towns. What began as opportunities to participate in an American Dream turned into a nightmare. These icons of past efforts are now being razed to accommodate more humane alternatives.
In recent years, however, a new emphasis on design excellence in affordable housing has yielded encouraging alternatives for both residents and their communities.
Contemporary architecture incorporates energy efficient strategies, enhancing tenants 'quality of life on many levels.
In Albany, N.Y., and Oakland, Calif., developers and architects recycled and reinvigorated existing historic structures, providing many units of housing while conserving and strengthening local character.
[Restored] homes transformed the physical character and composition of the existing neighborhood while bringing renewed vitality and stability to a historic community.
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