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Housing Innovation

Exploring new ideas and approaches in addressing Boston’s housing needs

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. We took this research and created Past, Present, and Future-Decker, a virtual exhibition that ran through the fall of 2020. 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.

The Request for Ideas (RFI), Co-Creating Boston's Future-Decker, was released in the summer 2021, inviting teams and individuals to imagine and propose new housing for small sites (3,000-8,000 square feet) in Boston. The call closed on Friday, July 30, with a total of 20 submissions. Participants were invited to share ideas for multifamily housing in Boston’s neighborhoods with a focus on affordability, sustainability and community. The ideas are being showcased virtually and in-person, inviting responses and feedback on shared themes from the RFI submissions. The RFI responses will inform the second phase of the competition, which will include a request for innovative proposals for a yet-to-be-selected city-owned lot.

We invite you to learn more about this work and how to get involved below.

Housing Innovation Initiatives

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Housing Innovation Design Fellow

The City of Boston’s Housing Innovation Lab and the Boston Society for Architecture are working together to explore new ideas and approaches in addressing our city’s housing needs. Together they are co-hosting a Housing Innovation Design Fellow, Wandy Pascoal, to oversee the effort of using innovative design to create more affordable housing throughout Boston. Wandy has been developing tactical solutions to Boston’s housing issues by helping us design, test, and scale new policies that will make Boston affordable for all.

Meeting Recordings

If you missed a recent session related to the Future-Decker Request for Ideas (RFI), you can view all past sessions here.

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