The UB Affordable Housing Initiative

Imagining. Innovating. Building.

Students work on a recent affordable housing rehab project in Buffalo.

Students work on a recent affordable housing rehab project in Buffalo.

Although the City of Buffalo has experienced a resurgence, it has inadequate high-quality housing that is affordable to a significant portion of its population. Like many cities, affordable housing in Buffalo has been heavily dependent on the availability of investments through low-income housing tax credits, the future availability of which is uncertain.

Pushing the national conversation on quality, affordable housing

In 2018, the School of Architecture and Planning recently gathered more than 150 leaders in affordable housing to consider policy, design and building solutions to an issue that has reached crisis proportions in cities across the U.S. The symposium kicked off a new program at the school to design and build affordable housing prototypes for Buffalo and cities like it across the U.S.

For over 50 years, the school has made practical work in, with and for communities in Buffalo and the upstate region a central experience in the education of student architects, planners and real estate developers.

Through coursework, research and participation in studios, architecture, real estate development and urban planning students and faculty will plan, design and ultimately build single-family or multi-family housing prototypes for underserved neighborhoods on Buffalo's East or West Side. Prototypes will be replicable both for Buffalo and cities like it across the U.S. The design-build project will also consider innovative design and construction materials and techniques. 

Faculty publications and student work on affordable housing

  • Housing Estates in Europe
    Daniel B. Hess and collaborators explore the formation and socio-spatial trajectories of large housing estates in Europe. 
  • Planning for the Health and Social Inclusion of LGBT Older Adults
    While lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender older adults have a range of lived experiences, many grew up during a time when homosexuality and gender variance was denounced and criminalized.
  • The Impact of Single-Family Rental REITs on Regional Housing Markets
    Urban planning professor Robert Silverman, PhD student Chihuangji Wang and collaborators examine the socio–spatial distribution of properties in single family home (SFR) real estate investment trusts (REIT) portfolios to determine if SFR REIT properties tend to cluster in distinct areas.
  • Interpreting Kigali, Rwanda
    Korydon Smith, Tomà Berlanda and colleagues explore the pressing challenges and opportunities to be found in planning, designing, and constructing a healthy, equitable, and sustainable city. 
  • People & Place
    Willert Park Courts (WPC), known today as A.D. Price Homes, is currently a vacant residential housing complex made up of ten buildings located in the Ellicott District of the east side of Buffalo, New York.
  • Near-Term Strategies for the Northland Campus
    For decades, the area around Northland Avenue suffered from divestment and abandonment, especially as many of its former manufacturing anchors succumbed to outside economic forces. Due to the adjacent Belt Line railroad, the corridor had become a strategic industrial hub able to move both people and products en masse. Once home to manufacturers such as Houdaille Industries, Otis Elevator Company, Curtiss-Wright Corporation, Northland Rubber Company, and Niagara Machine & Tool Works (later Clearing Niagara), the products that left the loading docks went on to forge modern America. A blue-collar workforce, building aircraft engines, plunger elevators, and automobile parts, established residency near their employers starting around the turn of the 20th Century. Over time, this pattern of settlement formed the Delavan Grider neighborhood we know today.
  • Inclusive Housing
    Professor of architecture Edward Steinfeld and senior research specialist at the IDeA Center Jonathan White's book focuses on housing that provides access to people with disabilities while benefiting all residents and that incorporates inclusive design practices into neighborhood and housing designs without compromising other important design goals.
  • Bailey Green Design Prototypes
    This studio, led by clinical assistant instructor of architecture Stephanie Cramer instructor worked with urban planning professor Hiroaki Hata’s neighborhood master plan to design homes that fitted the area’s narrow 30-foot lots.
  • Siting Affordable Housing in Opportunity Neighborhoods
    Professor and associate professor of urban planning Robert Silverman and Li Yin along with associate professor of social work Kelly Patterson examine the content and structure of the new affirmatively furthering fair housing mapping tool (AFFH-T) developed by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) as part of its new assessment of fair housing (AFH) process.
  • Buffalo Turning the Corner
    Professors of urban planning Henry Louis Taylor, Jr. and Robert Silverman join associate professor of urban planning Li Yin collaborated on the Buffalo Turning The Corner Initiative through the Urban Institute’s National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership University at Buffalo Center for Urban Studies.
  • Care house design prototype
    The conceptual design developed by Alexa Russo, student, working with architecture professor Edward Steinfeld. The model was built in Spring 2018 by clinical assistant instructor Stephanie Cramer’s fourteen inclusive design students.
  • Urban Life: Self + Society
    In the Fall of 2020, students in the Senior class designed multiple-unit housing within the Bedford Stuyvesant district of Brooklyn, New York. The semester focused on the urban dwelling as a threshold between self and society, between local and global, and between nature and culture. This project aimed to develop connections in the student’s mind about context and developing systems of housing that would relate to a greater social, technical, cultural, political, and economic understanding of urban space.
  • Bailey Green Initiative
    Bailey Green is an on-going community development initiative in the heart of Buffalo’s East Side that has its beginnings in a community partnership led by UB associate professor of urban design Hrioaki Hata.
  • Playing Against Type
    The Spring 2020 Inclusive Design studio, Playing Against Type, was a critique on the typological thinking present in western architecture. Assistant Professor Charles Davis encouraged students to examine the reuse of European-inspired developer housing by the material customs of Black life on Buffalo’s East Side. It is understood within these investigations that the typological diagram of a building emulates the function of the cultural potentials of “primitive” peoples against the standards and norms of European civilization. 
  • Neighborhood characteristics and the location of HUD-subsidized housing in shrinking cities
    Professor and associate professor of urban planning Robert Silverman and Li Yin along with associate professor of social work Kelly Patterson and urban planning PhD student Laiyun Wu focus on the manner in which affordable housing fits into anchor-based strategies for urban revitalization.
  • Manufactured Housing
    The affordability of housing has become a critical problem in most of the United States, especially in large, fast-growing cities where there are shortages of vacant land and housing. Post-industrial cities also face severe housing affordability problems due to population loss and deindustrialization, even though vacant land and abandoned houses are common. These “shrinking” or “legacy” cities face problems of low incomes, combined with surplus housing stock that has deteriorated to the point where it is no longer economical to rehabilitate it. The purpose of this report is to propose a unique opportunity for meeting the affordable housing needs of residents in post-industrial cities.
Strategy Document: UB Affordable Housing Initiative

Learn more about the global and national challenge of affordable housing and how we will address it through the UB Affordable Housing Initiative


Donald Capoccia: Founding Supporter of UB's Affordable Housing Initiative

Donald Capoccia shows students his Essex Crossing mixed-use and affordable housing development in New York City.

Donald Capoccia shows students his Essex Crossing mixed-use and affordable housing development in New York City.

A developer with more than 30 years in New York City's affordable housing market, Donald Capoccia is an inspired community-builder. A 1978 graduate of UB, he came to the school with an interest in supporting hands-on research to develop new models for high-quality affordable housing. We thank Don for his vision and leadership of a program that will enrich the learning experience for our students, rethink affordable housing, and improve communities. 

Thank you to the following generous supporters of UB's Affordable Housing Initiative:

Don Capoccia  ’78 | Tim Dempsey ’94 | Franklin Dickinson ’85 | Scott Lesh ’95 | Alex Morris ’91, ’94 | Cannon Heyman & Weiss | LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton | Anonymous