The Royal Institute of British Architects awards the Stirling Prize to the best building of any type built in the UK during that year. First awarded in 1996, the Stirling Prize has been awarded to everything from the media gallery of the Lord’s cricket pitch in 1999 to the rebirth of a 12th century fortified manor ravaged by fire in 1978 reborn into the 20th century. Zaha Hadid has won twice, as has Foster + Partners. It’s a big deal.

This year, the award went to a public housing project that’s built to Passivhaus energy efficiency standards designed by Mikhail Riches with Cathy Hawley.  In total, the Goldsmith Street project by the Norwich City Council has racked up six RIBA awards. Called council housing in the UK, in the US we’d equate it with public housing, built by local governments to house a lower-income working class.

That this type of cost-conscious housing could win a design award is telling. That it could also be so energy efficient, tells more. In addition to being affordable to construct, tenants’ energy bills are estimated to be 70 percent lower than normal – bringing running costs down further.


The US Census Bureau, along with researchers from Harvard and Brown universities, tracked the economic trajectories of 20 million children beginning in the mid-1980s (aged mid-30s today). The result is the Opportunity Atlas, an interactive map that overlays multiple data points onto each of the 70,000 Census tracks in the country (a Census tract contains 4,200 people). Data tracked includes parental income level, race and gender along with incarceration rates.

The most interesting conclusions showed that while average neighborhood income is certainly a key indicator, neighborhoods with similar incomes, in close proximity, produced startlingly different outcomes for children. It’s here where I’ll say that while the data collected can be used by policymakers to influence spending and programs, there is no specific “eureka” that turns around the economic trajectories of a neighborhood’s children. Bethany Erickson already looked at this issue thoroughly, but there is more to be said about the numbers.

The major levers are neighborhood income (what I’ll call “hope”), two-parent households (familial stability), rates of incarceration (despair) and, of course, race and gender. What’s interesting is that easy conclusions can’t really be made. There’s a “secret sauce” at work.


Reinvestment Fund’s Market Value Analysis of Dallas neighborhoods.

On Monday, the City of Dallas hosted the first of four virtual town hall meetings to gather community input for updates to its Affordable Housing Strategy. It comes less than two weeks after the Jan. 17 Dallas City Council briefing on a Market Value Analysis report by Reinvestment Fund, a nonprofit conducting this research and analysis for cities across the U.S. The data tool is playing a leading role in the development of the City’s new 3-year rolling strategy.

The technology used for the meeting was especially impressive. I’m a little concerned how the city had my number to begin with, but once I opted in by text, it was seamless. I received a call at the appointed time, watched at or on Facebook live, could easily ask questions, indicate I wanted calls for future meetings, and even submit my email for followup info – they hired the right consultants to put this together.

The three upcoming meetings will go a little more in-depth than the first topic, “How Residential Development Gets Financed”, or what I’d call “Introduction to the Housing Market.” (more…)

Pennsylvania details just how expensive being homeless is for taxpayers

As part of a discussion about affordable housing, I wrote that poverty wasn’t aspirational. Like most things in life there are both simple and complex explanations.  In the US, a lot of poverty is explained by a systemic game of three-card Monty whereby minorities are kept at arm’s length from money through education and opportunity inequality.  Of course minorities are not alone in poverty, but they are disproportionately represented. But there are untold other reasons for poverty from the top-of-mind mental illness and substance abuse to more nuanced problems of isolation and hopelessness.

Just as poverty isn’t aspirational, poverty isn’t one thing.  Like most things in this world, poverty is a continuum ranging from homeless destitution to working 80-hour weeks and still living unsafe and hungry.

Why should a real estate blog care about affordable housing and poverty? Because poverty is the scourge of neighborhoods, not poor people.  Because I wrote about some areas in southern Dallas that contain wonderful housing stock and increasingly vibrant neighborhoods that many won’t consider.  Because Dallas was just presented with a Market Value Analysis to help them identify and spend appropriately on affordable housing.


Where a family of four earning 50 percent of the median income can live (Dark equals unaffordable)

Everyone within earshot of knows that Dallas housing prices have been on a tear for the past five-ish years for both purchasers and renters.  I recently concluded a series on affordable housing options in Southern Dallas. I went because it’s fast becoming one of the few places that remains affordable to ever-larger numbers of people as wages haven’t kept pace with housing costs.

Last Wednesday, Dallas City Council listened to the presentation of data compiled by consultants called the Reinvestment Fund.  They essentially inventoried and mapped the city’s housing stock and paired it with racial makeup and income.  They did this because Dallas needs better data if it hopes to address affordability (better than its miserable history). Of course, most of it we know anecdotally. North Dallas rich. Southern Dallas poor.

But let’s look a little deeper, shall we?