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4 Projects Pushing To Alleviate The Affordable Housing Crisis

    The U.S. housing market is in the midst of an affordable housing crisis, and nonprofits from around the country are creating innovative solutions to help low-income and poverty-stricken Americans.

    From rethinking emergency housing to creating outdoor living rooms, here are four creative projects that use design to tackle the affordable housing crisis, each of which is featured in the "By The People" exhibition at Cooper Hewitt Design Museum in New York City.

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    Affordable Housing For Nontraditional Families

    Location: Tucson, Ariz.

    Completion: 2013

    Las Abuelitas, a 12-unit affordable housing project, was created specifically for children living with their grandparents. The multifamily affordable housing and community center completed in November 2013 is headed by the Primavera Foundation, a nonprofit that recognizes families with different housing needs.

    The project was funded in part through the federal Home and Neighborhood Stabilization Program and is LEED certified. Las Abuelitas focuses specifically on multi-generational households, with peepholes built at eye level for children while making all houses wheelchair accessible.

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    Rapid Response Emergency Housing

    Location: Texas

    Completion: Around 2009

    Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy proved there is a need for fast-acting emergency housing, and Texas-based nonprofit buildingcommunityWORKSHOP is filling that need. The group started RAPIDO, a $2M project aimed at quickly deploying small housing units for people displaced by disasters, working to return residents to their homes within 20 weeks. RAPIDO integrates community outreach, housing design and construction, labor recruitment and resource deployment to help speed up the recovery process.

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    Rethinking Domestic Violence Shelters

    Location: Tacoma, Wash.

    Completion: 2012

    Affordable housing has many faces, and one often forgotten is the domestic violence shelter typically used by low-income women and children. Design architects teamed up with a domestic violence group at the YMCA Pierce County in Washington in 2012 to revamp shelter layouts. The team, Building Dignity, used feedback from residents through an online portal to create safe spaces for survivors. One change they made, based on numerous requests, was giving families individual rooms rather than communal living spaces; another was placing innovative security window grilles outside the windows for safety. 

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    Outdoor Living Rooms

    Location: York, Ala.

    Completion: 2013

    Low-income neighborhoods are often dotted with abandoned properties that can be transformed for public use. That was the case in York, Ala., where designer Matthew Mazzotta teamed up with locals to transform one of the town's abandoned properties into a public theater. Known as OPEN HOUSE, the property physically transforms from the shape of a house to an open air theater that seats 100 people. The goal of the project, the idea for which dates to 2011, was to create an open, safe place for the community to gather and interact in a low-income neighborhood.