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Designing Multi-Family Housing for Residential Neighborhoods

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Despite the challenges to the housing market presented by profound social and economic change, there are surprisingly few alternatives to the single family house, especially in single-family residential neighborhoods. Most so-called "multi-family housing" responds to purely quantitative criteria, packing the largest possible number of units on a given piece of land. When children are forced to play on walkways, in stairwells, in parking lots, or on leftover spaces scattered randomly about the site, the result is a living environment that doesn't work well for anyone.

Multi-family housing can create successful small neighborhoods within the community, if carefully designed. As architects, we've tried to employ built forms that foster residential privacy, as well as a strong sense of personal and family identity, while fitting in with the surrounding neighborhood.

Sunrise Place and Daybreak Grove are two housing developments we designed for low-income families in Escondido, California. Escondido is a rapidly urbanizing agricultural community, with a large Latino immigrant population, northeast of San Diego.

Isometric drawing of Daybreak Grove. The structure in the foreground is a combination “ampitheater” / laundry facility which serves as a spot where residents congregate.
Isometric drawing of Daybreak Grove. The structure in the foreground is a combination “ampitheater” / laundry facility which serves as a spot where residents congregate.

The eight- and thirteen-unit projects were commissioned by the North County Housing Foundation, a community-based non-profit developer, and financed with a combination of loans and grants from the public and private sectors. Although Sunrise Place and Daybreak Grove have been designed for low-income families, they have much to offer as models of good housing and efficient use of urban land for any group. ...

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