cohort

co ·hort   noun /ˈkōhôrt/   – a group of people banded together or treated as a group.

“Affordable” and “housing” are two words that, when paired together, routinely cause upheaval in the context of community planning. Affordable housing immediately conjures imagery of dense, poorly cared for, federally subsidized housing projects of the prior century. What if I told you affordable housing was not only important, but potentially catalytic for neighborhood revitalization?

Jamestown houses

A range of housing types that accommodate multi-generational, economically diverse cohorts is an asset to a community and its diverse economy. These developments, when executed with a modicum of creativity and design, strengthen the existing residential and developed fabric of the region. During a discussion of affordable housing in Bradford, City officials pointed us to a recent success in nearby Jamestown, New York (birthplace of Lucille Ball ~ a model of her Jamestown home is recreated on the Paramount Studio in Hollywood, in case you were curious). What we found on the east side of the City was a remarkable cluster of affordable housing.

What made this development remarkable were three particular points. First, they were designed. I know this is a simple, possibly snooty comment, but it’s true. The units all had a style to them that added drama to the façade, created social spaces, and added aesthetic value to the neighborhoods around them. They were not sterile, socialistic compounds aimed at efficiently occupying physical space.

Second, they created a streetscape environment fostering neighbor to neighbor interactions by building to the setback line and keeping parking effectively confined to the backs of the units.

Third, and perhaps most importantly, the feedback from residents of the community celebrated the success of this development. The residential cohorts we encountered included a single resident under 30, a young couple, a retired couple, and several families. These residents were racially diverse, economically diverse, and each expressed that they took a great deal of pride in their homes, because they were new when they arrived, they were well conceived, and they were diverse, or specifically in their words “it’s not just all one type of person here.”

With an aging housing stock across the state and a paradigm shift inflating rental occupancy, does affordable housing have a place in your community? It just might.