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Just Big Enough: Imagining the future of "small home" residential design with a master plan at the nexus of affordability and sustainability

Communities everywhere are experiencing significant and unpredictable shifts in the social and physical infrastructure of their landscapes. In the midst of a cultural, political, and ecological moment which has no precedent, it seems as though many of our contemporary crises have one thing in common: they will either be alleviated or drastically exacerbated by the alliance of professions working to improve the built environment. Now more than ever, the world is in need of designers, planners, and policy-makers who are willing to use this moment of great change as momentum to imagine a new era of community development, one which prioritizes creative and systemic solutions. One sector that continues to be in great need of systemic solutions is housing. As rental rates soar and class-based equity gaps widen, many people are losing what few housing options they had. For many, the dream of homeownership has been replaced by a struggle to afford monthly rent as a tenant. This Master’s Project seeks to expand upon the work of Pioneer Valley Habitat for Humanity (PVHH) as they gain traction in a robust community initiative to build smaller, sustainable and affordable homes for low-income families in Western Massachusetts. The work that follows was developed in response to PVHH’s efforts and their recent acquisition of 1 Garfield Avenue, a residential parcel in the village of Florence, Massachusetts. This research and design work aims to contextualize this region’s housing affordability crisis within the broader scale of a national, historical timeline of housing inequity for the poor. It will identify opportunities for meaningful, affordable and sustainable landscape design solutions that can enhance the experience of first-time homeownership for low-income families. It will offer resources and information to these families so that they might be more equipped to identify their property’s opportunities and constraints, and be more informed as they implement landscape design projects in the future. This project will culminate with a conceptual Master Plan for the parcel and some recommendations moving forward.
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