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How can we make housing more affordable in cities?
A complex question to which there are no one-line answers. As American Cities face a crisis of housing affordability, the underlying fabric of our cities must undergo a dramatic transformation in order to maintain socioeconomic diversity. While the required transformation includes fundamental policy changes not addressable at project level (infrastructure, transportation, financing, etc.), there are tools available to developers and architects that can move the needle towards affordability.

Clanton Street Micro is a 34-unit apartment project that addresses the affordability issue through three separate approaches, each of which are only recently enabled through text changes in Raleigh’s zoning code (most notably TC-20-21 Missing Middle 2.0, among others).

1. Density:  One theory of housing affordability argues that increasing the supply of housing units in a given area can alleviate market shortage, increasing competition among landlords, which can in turn help lower rental prices. In Clanton Street Micro, the project’s site is currently occupied by just one single-family home, and a 34-unit building would represent a significant contribution to density. (Density, by the way, is a pre-requisite to financial viability of mass transit)

2. Smaller Units: A well-designed apartment can provide comfortable living conditions despite a sub-market footprint. With a sufficient base of renters who welcome the corresponding lifestyle choices, smaller units with a proportionally small price tag can create new housing options, which in turn opens up the neighborhood to a wider range of socio-economic profiles. In Clanton Street Micro, the units are only 360 SF, and must 
be designed efficiently to do more with less. Rather than relying on superficial solutions like transformer furniture pieces, the unit design begins at building design stage, strategizing around acceptable unit width-to-depth ratios, structural spans, and a building massing design that lends itself to better natural light access. The units feature no cumbersome fold-up beds, expanding tables or moving walls, but are designed with dimensional precision to create ergonomic spaces that eliminate excess in area use.

3. Inclusionary Zoning & Rent Control: Recently adopted provisions in Raleigh’s zoning code includes density bonuses(unit count & max height) for providing affordable units in a portion of the project. 20% of the bonus units are dedicated to households making less than 60% Area Median Income, and rent is fixed to HUD’s HOME program guidelines for 30 years. Inclusionary zoning practices like this are becoming more commonplace across American cities, and they can improve a project’s financial viability while further contributing to densification.

We believe affordable cities are not a destination but a sign post, and every project can help move us closer.



ELIZA MONTGOMERY is an architect, urbanist and native of downtown Raleigh.

Her experiences living and working in New York City over 12 years have given her both passion and expertise in solving complex architectural and urban issues. Prior to founding MontgomeryChoi, she was an Associate at Ennead Architects (formerly Polshek Partnership) in NYC for 7 years. There she designed a range of cultural, institutional and mixed use projects around the country and world. But her true passion lies in extending her design skills past the traditional field of architecture.

Eliza co-leads the Rethinking Refugee Communities project, a collaboration with Ennead Lab and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees that addresses the growing and protracted crises affecting the lives of refugees and their host communities. She's visited, analyzed and designed refugee settlements around the world including in Rwanda, Jordan and Nepal and has lectured extensively on the subject. Eliza has taught as a Visiting Assistant Professor at Pratt Institute and has led design workshops for multidisciplinary participants at The New School and other organizations.

Eliza is a registered Architect in North Carolina and New York. She is a Fellow at the Urban Design Forum in NYC. Eliza has a Master of Architecture degree from Columbia University and a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies from Bard College.

WILL CHOI is an architect with a keen interest in the link between the shapes of our cities and the shapes of our communities. 

Through a decade of practice working with internationally recognized offices such as Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects and SHoP Architects, Will designed and led projects in urban centers around the country that fostered his appreciation for the way buildings may transform the surrounding communities, but more importantly, how communities may transform the design of the buildings, and ultimately cities. 

Will has held faculty positions at the Parsons School of Design in New York City, and maintains a passion for teaching. He can often be found serving as an invited juror at various institutions, including Columbia University, NYU, and NC State University. Will is a registered architect in North Carolina and New York.

Will holds a Master of Architecture from Harvard University, and a Bachelor of Design from University of Florida, but considers his best education the life lived hopping around great cities. That’s Seoul, New York, Boston, and of course, Raleigh!



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