Developing neighborhoods where you can live, work, and play without the necessity of an automobile addresses some of the critical issues of our generation–climate change, public health, and safety. The refreshing urban planning concept of the “15-Minute City,” like a recipe, demonstrates how to build a compact, pedestrian-scaled neighborhood to improve the quality of life while reducing carbon emissions and transportation demands. The convenience and quality of life offered by these neighborhoods have created highly sought-after and often unaffordable places to live. At Hord Coplan Macht, our design practice has been a proponent of using placemaking strategies along with the inclusion of housing diversity to create equitable, resilient, walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods.

Housing choice is the cornerstone of a complete, self-sustaining neighborhood. Housing diversity enables all people, regardless of socio-economic status, physical abilities, and even lifestyles, to live harmoniously together within convenient proximity to essential shared resources, such as schools, healthcare, employment, groceries, parks, and community facilities. Walkable neighborhoods inclusive of housing choice and affordability address a variety of structural challenges in the United States, including isolated, auto-oriented suburban and ex-urban single-use jurisdictions, historical impacts of red-lining and similar segregationist policies, rising housing costs, homelessness, and the process of gentrification. We believe designing places integrated with attainable and diverse housing options is the first step in creating self-sufficient, sustainable, and equitable communities.

Social Equity & Connectivity: Neighborhoods that deliver housing for all people improve equitable access to daily needs and reduce social barriers between people. Mixed-income, mixed-use neighborhoods that attract households with disposable incomes also attract neighborhood resources, like a grocery store, typically missing from disinvested communities. Additionally, successful neighborhoods provide a variety of places for community engagement, such as libraries, parks, and other third spaces. Maintaining housing diversity within a neighborhood allows all people the opportunity to participate in both formal and chance social interactions with neighbors. The bonds created between neighbors help foster a sense of community and, in turn, support a sense of public safety and resiliency.

Proximity & Economic Vitality: For most who can afford to live in dynamic, walkable places, transportation is not as much of a concern. Many desirable walkable neighborhoods have convenient access to employment centers, such as downtown or higher education institutions. These neighborhoods have highly competitive real estate markets, higher housing costs, and are generally unattainable to most people. By implementing inclusive housing in these areas, workforce families are better positioned to take advantage of proximity to employment opportunities to reduce the time and stress associated with long commutes. In turn, people can reinvest their time back into their community, schools, and families while supporting a happier and more productive workforce.

Reduced Gentrification Pressures: In many older urban neighborhoods, the landscape and infrastructure are well-positioned to grow into a truly walkable, mixed-use community. As seen in many neighborhoods, reinvestment begets rising land value. If gentrification is left uncontrolled, legacy residents will soon find themselves unable to afford rising property taxes and rents. This process adds unnecessary stress and social distrust while ultimately excluding people who greatly benefit from living in a highly accessible and amenity-rich neighborhood.  Preserving affordable housing helps alleviate the burden of living expenses to enable citizens to remain within the community they consider home.   

Hord Coplan Macht’s collaborative urban design and housing architects prioritize mixed-income and housing diversity to create inclusive, equitable, and walkable communities.

The transformation of Perkins Homes, a recipient of HUD’s Choice Neighborhood Initiative Implementation Grant, exemplifies the importance of housing diversity within the framework of a 15-minute city. Through an inclusive public engagement process, the master plan identified the growing constellation of neighborhood-serving resources such as a public school, recreation centers, medical offices, employment, and access to transit as key assets, all within walking distance of this 9-block redevelopment site. The complete reimagination of Perkins Homes turned 629 distressed, obsolete public housing apartments into 1,345 households in a mixed-income neighborhood. The redevelopment replaced and protected all existing deeply affordable units as well as reserved homes for workforce and market-rate households to create a truly mixed-income community. In addition to income diversity, a range of housing types and sizes, including mixed-use, elevator-served buildings down to rowhomes, help accommodate the diverse needs of households for people of all abilities and lifestyle needs, such as empty nesters and young families. Within this compact neighborhood, pedestrian-oriented and bike-friendly streets and a large central park provided the necessary public space to support community needs and enhance their shared quality of life.

Perkins Homes

At a smaller scale, Hord Coplan Macht’s professional collaboration with New Shiloh Baptist Church, a cornerstone organization within a rapidly changing urban neighborhood, delivered affordable housing to leverage the location’s proximity to essential daily needs. This multi-phased housing investment delivered family and senior affordable housing on the same block adjacent to the church. This intergenerational development shares amenities and is within walking distance to retail services, daycare, schools, rapid transit services, and the Church with its many social and emotional supports for residents. 

By integrating inclusive housing into a planning framework for walkable and sustainable neighborhoods, urban planners can create environments that prioritize equity and accessibility for all. As we build more intentionally mixed-income neighborhoods, we will correct the failures of single-use, auto-oriented, and exclusive communities that are abundant throughout the United States. Housing choice creates happier and healthier families, fosters shared prosperity and builds stronger local community bonds.

 

 

Meet the Authors

Matthew Fitzsimmons, Associate Principal, has focused his career on his passion for urban design and community-oriented planning. As a planner and architect with 18 years experience, his project management and design skills have enabled him to think about the important role of good urbanism, placemaking and sustainability in transforming neighborhoods. He has managed numerous complex urban design projects ranging from new town plans, comprehensive plans, urban and suburban infill redevelopments and transit-oriented developments (TOD).

 

Keval Thakkar has over 21 years of experience focused on residential and institutional projects. As a believer in “Housing for All,” Keval has committed himself and HCM’s team of talented designers to provide great residential planning and design that affects positive change in peoples’ lives. His housing experience includes working within tight budgets and on challenging sites for affordable, market-rate, and senior housing, as well as in-place residential renovations. His recent work reflects his depth of experience with CDA low-income housing tax credit and HUD applications. Keval champions sustainability in all of his projects, pursuing goals such as early energy modeling, LEED certifications, and National Green Building and Energy Star Multifamily High-Rise standards. As Principal, Keval works on behalf of his clients to guide projects from planning through construction administration.