Students team up with City of Detroit on affordable housing solutions

Posted at 7:06 AM, Oct 09, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-09 07:06:50-04

It's an unprecedented partnership between a city and a school of architecture aimed at solving one of Detroit's growing pains.

Housing costs in Detroit's hottest neighborhoods have skyrocketed pricing many people out, now some of the nations brightest minds have been recruited to help solve the pressing problem. 

"How do you get affordable housing in a mixed market rate development?" says  Maurice Cox the Director of Development and Planning for the city of Detroit.

For the 3rd year in a row Cox is partnering with University of Michigan's Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning.

180 graduate students working on their thesis are tasked with designing innovative affordable housing solutions for specific vacant lots in Detroit's growing neighborhoods. These are lots in the pipeline, ready for development.

Students tour the site, meet with Cox to learn more about the challenges and goals with a particular lot, then start brainstorming.
Ideas become detailed site plans then 3D models. This years grads are just 5 weeks into the project, finding inspiration from the model designed by last year's students for the space on Alfred near the Dequindre Cut which is getting a lot of attention from developers.

"They (city of Detroit) get the actual contractors to look at our stuff to get an idea of what the possibilities are. So I think working in an actual site is the most exciting thing about it," says one grad student.
"It really helps me to say, well, if a grad student can do this surely you should be expecting this out of your professional architects, and that drives them to engage really excellent architects!" says Cox adding "and the students set a bar, a very high bar in innovation."

Which is good for the city and an incredible opportunity for the students to gain invaluable real world skills.

"Not only how to design exquistite buildings, but how to have a social impact and serve the public interest," says Cox.

He says the plans and models students create save the city tens of thousands of dollars and the innovative affordable housing solutions they are coming up with are priceless.