PHOTO: Natalie Dalton

Design for Dignity Takeaways

Design for Dignity, the AIA|LA’s conference addressing homelessness and the housing crisis, was scheduled to close at 3:30PM on Friday, July 13, and yes, the formal program on the riser did end then. But at the round tables which provided seating for 220 attendees to coalesce as working groups, the event didn’t. People. Kept. Working.

The moment was emblematic of the day: the commitment of architects, designers and others active in the built environment to resolve the issue. It also represented the urgency of the crisis and the AIA|LA’s commitment to addressing it. The conference is over; the work has just begun.

To update members who were not able to attend the conference, here are ten diverse action items proposed at Design for Dignity by speakers and attendees. In the coming weeks, the AIA|LA will survey attendees and other stakeholders for additional possibilities. Then, the chapter’s advocacy director, Will Wright, Hon. AIA|LA, will work with the board to formalize an action plan.

1. Establish a “Housing Innovation Ordinance” that facilitates a pilot program to advance swift, innovative and cost-effective solutions to affordable housing, and exempts these projects from the various regulatory conditions that are slowing projects down and/or over-burdening them with unnecessary costs and complexities (e.g., we live in Southern California. Not all rooms need mechanical air-conditioning! Passive systems work just fine in many conditions)
2. Expand housing typologies and embrace mixed-use back-yard homes that enable live/work conditions, agriculture and commerce.
3. Establish a set of pre-existing kit-of-parts to expedite plan check (for ADUs, tiny homes, etc). Create Type V sheet for garage conversions, etc.
4. Re-brand the narrative and develop a series of public service announcements to help change the general public’s attitude towards our collective housing crisis.
5. Create a well-designed, compelling and accessible “catalogue” of best-practices, precedents and successful projects to show stakeholders.
6. Immediately act to dignify the current condition of our streets with bathrooms, showers, shade structures and hygienic amenities for those that are currently living on our sidewalks and in our neighborhood encampments.
7. Coordinate a series of listening sessions, which will continue to allow architects to hear from the diverse array of “clients” that are currently without a home and with existing communities that may not realize the added benefits of integrating affordable housing and/or supportive housing into their neighborhoods.
8. Create a series of training courses that will help architects expand best-practices with community outreach and to learn how to be better listeners and to tell better stories.
9. Architecture Firms: Commit to hiring student interns that are at risk of being homeless, or are indeed already living without a place to call home.
10. Decriminalize homelessness. Decriminalize drug addiction. Declare a Human Right to Housing – and advocate for such positions at the national level when we vote on November 6, 2018.

(Takeaways: Will Wright, Hon. AIA|LA | Intro: Tibby Rothman, Hon. AIA|LA)