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Enterprise Rose Fellowship: Transforming the Way We Think About, Design, Locate and Build Affordable Homes for Low-Income Families

NHC member partner Enterprise Community Partners was a 2009 “Pioneering Housing Strategies” Award finalist for their highly competitive Enterprise Rose Fellowship in Community Architecture – the only national program that develops the next generation of architects focused on uniting a community-based approach to development with best practices in affordable housing design.

According to Enterprise, many affordable housing developers have historically accepted the premise that design excellence must be compromised by budget constraints. The Rose Fellowship is living proof that the long-term financial and social viability of affordable housing, in fact, depends on design excellence, sustainability and community engagement in the development of their neighborhoods. To make these practices universal, the fellowship seeks to nurture a movement of designers committed to working with communities to design and develop high-quality, green affordable housing. It achieves this by making a valuable grant – for the purpose of employing a highly skilled emerging architect – to a community development corporation (CDC) for a period of three years. The CDC benefits from having the creativity, imagination and training of an architect on staff. The architect benefits from deep involvement in the neighborhood where his or her affordable housing projects move forward. The program is so successful, that by the end of the three-year commitments, many of the host organizations take the leap to create a position for their architect-fellow to remain a permanent member of their staff. Even those fellows who do not stay on with their hosts though, remain in the field of community-based architectural design.

The Fellowship has offered 31 of the nation’s finest early-career architects a chance to receive three years of rigorous training and experience in sustainable community design work. The Rose Fellowship is an important part of Enterprise’s Green Communities initiative. The initiative transforms the way we think about, design, locate and build affordable homes for low-income families.

Since the fellowship’s launch in 2000, Enterprise Rose Fellows have helped to design and develop over 4,400 affordable homes and apartments valued at nearly $1 billion and 43 community facilities valued at over $42 million, including neighborhood and child care centers, community gardens, health clinics and mixed-use space for nonprofits and small businesses. Rose Fellows have also led nine major community planning efforts and have been leaders in greening affordable housing. The breadth of the fellows’ work ranges from a straw-bale housing development in Montana to a center for troubled teens that won the Virginia Governor’s Award for Best Housing Project.

Last year, after conducting an independent evaluation, the Rensselaerville Institute reported: “Fellows are publishing, teaching, and choosing to stay on as architects and leaders in the community development field—all of this representing measurable progress in realizing the program’s primary goal of creating a new generation of community architects in the United States.”

Fifteen of 20 former Fellows have gone on to positions of leadership in the fields of community design, sustainable design, and community development—including the director of the Mayor’s Institute on City Design, the director of the Austin Community Design Center, and a professor of architecture at Penn State University. And their work has received broader public recognition—through over 350 media stories—which we believe is crucial to winning broader public support for quality design in affordable housing development.

After completion of the three-year fellowships, nearly 90 percent of host CDCs report that the fellowship led them to adopt new policies and standard practices to incorporate community input and sustainable design principles. Finally, 85 percent of the host organizations have chosen to employ either the Fellow or an additional architectural designer full-time.

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