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Affordable housing


One of the big challenges facing contemporary cities is the accessibility to affordable housing. Housing corporations, municipalities and citizen groups are struggling to meet a growing demand for affordable housing. We are stuck in a housing crisis, which is rapidly deepening. This is pushing people out of their beloved cities, and often into precarious housing situations. In the last decade, the amount of homeless people in the Netherlands has doubled, in a quarter of all municipalities the waiting lists for social housing are over seven years long, and aspiring home-buyers stand no chance against large investors in an overheated real estate market.


Developing affordable social- or mid rent housing is often not a popular choice amongst architects and developers. We tend to make the mistake of considering affordability just as a limit and a frustration. We want to embrace budget constraints as an opportunity to explore new development processes where users have a central role, to make residential buildings for communities where people share resources in solidarity with each-other and finally to create a new “architectural language of affordability.”


In the last few years, new pathways in developing affordable housing have greatly gained popularity and shown the myriad of advantages they can bring. Such as, self built housing, in which citizens (or citizens groups) together with an architect, supervisor and/or contractor define the housing project and its design, without the interference of a developer. Self built housing greatly pushes down development costs, and also building costs, especially if these citizens also take up a part of the construction. At TtA we have experience with CPC (collective private commissions - CPO in Dutch - where individuals privately own their houses but collectively develop and manage the entire building), housing cooperatives (wooncoöperatie in Dutch where ownership is collective and the houses rented by the members of the cooperative) and all kinds of hybrid models where professional developers (either commercial developers or housing corporations) collaborate with citizens’ initiatives.


Different forms of co-housing are growing in popularity in the Netherlands. Co-housing is a form of communal living in which every household, apart from their own private space, also shares communal facilities and/or spaces, such as a kitchen, living room or garden. In co-housing projects, spaces and facilities are shared more between residents, which is an economical use of the space at hand. Often, these shared spaces and facilities create a sense of ownership amongst the communities residing in it. Also parts of the building are often semi-publicly accessible which also positively impacts the neighbourhood and creates more lively urban areas. Not only do these new modes of living and production impact affordability, they also enhance the creation of tight-knit communities that reside in these housing projects, which combats other problems that urban areas face, such as loneliness, which especially benefits different vulnerable communities.


At TtA we also give primary importance to design strategies able to decrease building costs without compromising architectural quality. A good building orientation that reacts to the surroundings and the seasons to create good sun exposure and natural cross ventilation; the use of raw local materials lived exposed without unnecessary decoration, minimising the use of expensive technologies and instead promoting a low-tech approach to sustainability; an intelligent choice of construction methods; compactness. These are all powerful tools to create an honest and affordable design for high-quality residential buildings.

Last but not least, a good project- and process-management are crucial to contain costs. We are involved from the very beginning of each assignment in making good realistic planning and a realistic budget estimation and supporting along the whole process both clients and builders to contain construction costs and exploring alternative financing possibilities.

We have the ambition of creating a new and specific architectural aesthetic, of which affordability is not a constraint but a recognizable and noble ingredient.