Theses Master's

Overlapping Historic Preservation and Affordable Housing: Successful Outcomes in New York City and San Francisco

Olson, Siri

At a time when housing affordability is a major concern across the United States, pressure on the built environment is keenly felt. Decreasing affordability and increasing demand in cities with rich concentrations of old buildings place historic preservation interests squarely within discussions of how to address the problem. Historic preservationists have long asserted that preservation serves a public purpose; it is therefore incumbent upon preservationists to consider their interaction with the production of affordable housing and retention of neighborhood affordability. Historic preservation is often plagued by negative perceptions, and inconsistent and conflicting assertions about preservation's impact on affordability can make it difficult to identity avenues for positive change. This thesis examines how historic preservation and affordable housing intersect today and what types of projects, tools, and strategies can inform future work. Four case studies provide an in-depth lens into these questions that complement a discourse analysis of the nuances of broader scholarly arguments. Two cities, New York and San Francisco, provide the focus as cities grappling with the repercussions of strong markets and rapid change on both their residents and existing urban fabrics. Two case studies in each city have been chosen to highlight successful practices that have achieved positive outcomes for both affordable housing and preservation actors. In New York City, the Randolph Houses case provides lessons about collaboration between public housing and affordable housing, expanding the traditional narrative of public housing typologies, and previous attempts to overlap affordable housing and preservation. A trio of cases by Breaking GroundÑthe Times Square, the Prince George, and the ChristopherÑshows the evolving challenges of development in New York City, experiences of a non-profit mission-driven developer, and how projects that originated in earlier eras can respond to new market challenges and utilize building-specific assets. In San Francisco, the Kelly Cullen Community illustrates a project with dedicated investment, classic preservation approaches and deeply-held community significance, but at a scale that defies wider replication. Finally, San FranciscoÕs Small Sites Program showcases the retention of vernacular typologies to preserve existing residents and affordable units in the face of development pressure. Small Sites is especially noteworthy as a model where historic preservation interests are subordinate and incidental to the priorities of affordable housing, yet it achieves preservation without relying on formal designation, preservation incentives, or traditional preservation frameworks. Critical examinations of real projects contribute practical experiences and generalizable lessons about possible positive outcomes for both affordable housing and preservation actors. These cases range from using traditional tools to achieving informal preservation as a secondary outcome and together they illustrate a variety of ways that old buildings can contribute to a larger social good that transcends their material nature.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Historic Preservation
Thesis Advisors
Clark, Carol A.
M.S., Columbia University
Published Here
September 25, 2018