A well-designed home is about much more than appearance. It’s about lifting up resident voices, planning more equitable communities and building better places to live.

Our national Design Initiative provides tools, programs, and research to support developers in mastering their design process to center the needs of residents and communities. We promote authentic community partnership to address years of racist development practices, which gave communities little agency in their future. We train developers how to reliably focus their developments on outcomes important to residents, like health, relationships, ownership, and pride, despite constraints of costs and short timelines. And we provide spaces for innovation in practice. 

Here’s How We Do It:

  • Provide field-tested resources, like the Design Matters framework and toolkit, to support developers in each step of the develop process while centering resident voices and equitable outcomes to create break-through projects.
  • Build developers’ capacity and leadership in the area of design and construction, through programs like the Affordable Housing Design Leadership Institute (AHDLI), to ensure that developments are built to ensure the pride, power and belonging of their residents.
  • Deploy innovators to the field, through our Rose Fellowship program, to increase organizational capacity in the design process, authentic community engagement, and equity in the built environment.
  • Seed innovation in the field by testing and releasing Tools and Resources to generate new ideas and advance best practices.
Institute participants collaborate during the 2019 Affordable Housing Design Leadership Institute

Affordable Housing Design Leadership Institute

The Affordable Housing Design Leadership Institute (AHDLI) provides affordable housing developers with the design tools, ideas and relationships necessary to cut through complex financing and regulatory constraints and deliver homes that more deeply meets the needs and wants of residents and communities. The outcome is housing that not only provides a roof over its residents’ heads, but a home that can provide a steppingstone to more. It has never been more clear that the most important priority for affordable housing is to promote greater equity and healing of its residents from the decades of trauma and harm exerted by racist housing and financing systems. These are outcomes that can be designed for, with the proper training, tools and leadership. 

In the newly updated 2021/22 Affordable Housing Design Leadership Institute curriculum, we investigate how the design process can deliver equitable housing that is intended to heal. Developers learn and apply leading-edge predevelopment practices to a real project in their pipeline. In addition to gaining tactical tools and project specific feedback from national design experts, participating developers are on an equity learning journey, interrogating their agency to center healing in projects and in their day-to-day development practices.

At the Institute, it was nice to get away from the details and daily grind of making a project happen, and instead explore what an affordable housing development can mean not only to its residents, but the larger community.
2017 Developer Participant, Affordable Housing Design Leadership Institute

Enterprise Rose Fellowship

The Rose Architectural Fellowship began in 2000 to partner emerging professionals in architectural design with leaders in community development. The program goal is to improve the quality of design and development of affordable homes by integrating design skills and sustainability experience into the development process.

Over the last 20-plus years, the program has evolved to meet the most pressing matters of the day, focusing on issues of racial inequity, resilience and community power. Fellows' influence has extended beyond the architectural design process by deploying authentic community engagement. The addition of community-engaged artists into the fellowship allowed for an even deeper connection to community pride and belonging.

In 2020, Enterprise documented its 20-year history in Design with Love: At Home in America.

In 2022, the 19th cohort of Rose Fellows will complete their fellowships as we look for new ways to impact the quality of design in affordable homes. Over those 22 years, 90 fellows – 85 architects, four artists and one landscape architect – worked alongside 103 partner organizations in 54 unique communities across 28 states in the country and Puerto Rico.

Rose Fellowship Alumni 2000-2022

Tools & Resources

Design Matters Toolkit

Supports developers in adopting the three core practices for achieving people-focused design

Pre-Development Design Toolkit

A guide to improving all aspects of the pre-development process, from drafting an RFP to selecting your design team

Participatory Design Toolkit

Activities and agendas for meaningful community participation in project design

Ten Ways to Make the Most of Your Design Team

Learn how developers can build more effective and productive relationships with their design teams and leverage their investment in design services

Creative Placemaking for Community Developers

A guide to leveraging arts, culture, and creativity to improve communities and enhance your development

Design Competition Guide

Learn the elements of an effective housing design competition

Design Guidelines: What they Are, How they Work and Where to Get Started

A step-by-step process to standardize your organization’s design preferences and priorities

Aging in Place Design Guidelines

Guidelines for senior and non-age restricted properties with ideas for site selection, building design, unit layout, and more

A colorfully designed building, a project of the Affordable Housing Design Leadership Institute
The award winning Marion West, 2012 AHDLI participant, developed by LIHI in Seattle.
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