The Housing System

A series of programs in spring 2019 on pressing issues at the intersection of design, policy, and politics in housing.

The Housing System logo

Plagued with seemingly omnipresent issues of affordability, quality, and access, why do we design and build housing the ways that we do? In part, it’s because producing and tenanting housing is a fragile collection of distinct activities that are each complex in their own right and, while ultimately interconnected, often operate independently—and with conflicting interests. While not usually discussed as a system, these pieces rely on one another.

The Housing System program series in spring 2019 put policy, development, and design in dialogue to probe the sclerosis of the system as it exists. Our goal was to step back from the details in order to rethink our assumptions, take a critical look at where we’re headed, and offer varied perspectives on where, how, and what we’re building. From a range of disciplines and with a critical lens, we took a hard look at five areas over six events: maintenance and improvement, the typologies of small and shared, policy and regulations, methods of production, and possibilities for systemic change. We examined different aspects of the ways that housing is designed, built, and used, from the micro (the minimum dwelling) to the macro (the policies that structure it all). In putting forth some under-asked questions about this system, at a time when we are so stymied in our efforts to provide decent housing for all, we’re hoping to help point our way toward making real change.

Program videos


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