A Green Lens for Affordable Housing

This article looks at how landscape architects have combined green roofs, public spaces and affordable housing to address the chronic homelessness in San Francisco's infamous Tenderloin district.

"Through the efforts of the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation (TNDC) and Andrea Cochran Landscape Architecture, the Tenderloin is also home to a 2007 ASLA Honor Award winner in the general design category. Since 2005, this structure, designed by architects David Baker and Partners, provides affordable housing to low-income residents, many of whom suffer from chronic homelessness and other problems."

"'The program [at Curran House] is not unusual,' building manager Natalie Richie explains. "We work within the limits and restrictions of several subsidized housing programs. It is the location, the [physical] structure, and the diverse population that are unusual." Residents who qualify for low-income housing under provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act, as well as those holding Section 8 vouchers they receive through housing programs of the federal government's Department of Housing and Urban Development, find homes in the building. And Richie notes that one program the building serves requires eligible residents to meet at least two criteria from a list that includes chronic homelessness, physical disability, mental disorder, substance abuse, anger management, and domestic violence."

"The roof is essentially the building's 'backyard'-a place where parents can do chores such as laundry or gardening while looking after their children."

"The planters have proven so popular with residents that every six months they are reassigned based on a lottery. Each trough has a hose bib and is filled with a locally sourced custom soil mix of rich grape mulch compost. It makes it easy for the residents to raise what they want on the sunny roof."

Full Story: Triumph in the Tenderloin


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