At the heart of housing innovation work is designing, conducting, and evaluating pilot projects with the potential to significantly improve the quality and quantity of affordable housing in Boston. Boston’s Housing Innovation Lab (iLab) and Boston Society for Architecture (BSA) are working together to unlock the power of design and policy to address housing issues.
These collaborations have taken a wide variety of forms including developing zoning that allows homeowners to add an additional dwelling unit (ADU), encouraging new residential designs via innovation contests, and a traveling 375 sq.ft. urban housing unit (UHU) whose aim was to change the public’s view of compact living. The latter resulted in a two-year compact unit zoning pilot which is based, in part, on public commentary created during the UHU’s tour around six Boston neighborhoods.
In 2020, through a co-hosted Housing Innovation Design Fellowship, the BSA and iLab led a collaborative exploration with residents, students, architects, artists, and many others to learn about the role that triple-deckers have played in the lives of Boston residents.
Through community conversations and workshops, we learned about what part of this iconic New England housing type most resonated with residents, like using shared spaces for community building or using their decks to engage with their streets at a distance. During the pandemic, people’s relationships to their homes naturally changed. While some residents noticed the benefits of living only a few floors away from their neighbors, others came to use their decks in new ways, including as home office spaces. We took this research and created Past, Present, and Future-Decker, a virtual exhibition that ran through the fall of 2020 on the BSA website. Through exhibition programs we were able to hold more conversations about how housing and the process of building housing can be more affordable, more sustainable, and more focused on racial equity.
We invite you to learn more about this work and how to get involved below.