Category: Excellence in Affordable Housing
This new affordable housing project in Washington, D.C., provides short-term housing for up to 50 families that need emergency shelter. In addition, it supplies wraparound services for the families with space for a federally qualified nonprofit health center that offers services for the rest of the surrounding neighborhood. The project is much needed as Washington’s homeless population grows, despite a nationwide decrease.
"It’s hard to believe emergency housing could be so well done. This design conveys respect for the community and those it serves." - Jury comment
Through careful design and active public engagement, the design team integrated The Aya into the surrounding community. Unlike permanent supportive housing, this project is a temporary but immediately available housing solution that allows residents to avoid any period of homelessness. In addition, since the District owns the building, it was required to achieve LEED Gold for Multifamily Mid-Rise certification.
“It’s hard to believe emergency housing could be so well done. This design conveys respect for the community and those it serves,” said the jury. “A lively composition of form with thoughtfully organized spaces and playful use of color without excess.”
The Aya predominantly serves young mothers with small children, and the program supports this population through safe and clean private rooms that provide families with a dignified place to stay. An average stay at The Aya ranges between 30 and 90 days, but there are no mandatory limits. Each of The Aya’s floors is considered a unique neighborhood, and access is restricted to the families assigned to that floor. This organization allows its residents to become familiar with others on the floor, who share information and child care.
"A lively composition of form with thoughtfully organized spaces and playful use of color without excess." - Jury comment
The team recognized that any successful public housing project must have acceptance from its neighbors. Therefore, early and continuous community engagement was critical, particularly because the project is located in one of Washington’s most rapidly changing neighborhoods. Community input revealed that neighbors wanted the design to preserve green space, preferring a taller building to support that goal. In addition, they asked that the clinic remain on-site.