FORM on Design: Breaking New Ground in the Coachella Valley

This fall, a new competition will challenge entrants to create innovative housing solutions for low-income workers in California's Coachella Valley. Image via Breaking New Ground/the California Endowment.

This fall, a new competition will challenge entrants to create innovative housing solutions for low-income workers in California’s Coachella Valley. Image via Breaking New Ground/the California Endowment.

“We had hit a rock wall around housing. It’s such an intractable issue, and we needed to be doing something different,” Margarita Luna, Program Manager, Eastern Coachella Valley, for the California Endowment, says of the state of housing in the region. But how could the organization, which is dedicated to expanding access to affordable healthcare for individuals and communities across the state as well as improving the overall health of Californians, do it?

The answer could very well come from the results of the organization’s visionary new competition, Breaking New Ground: Designing Affordable Housing for the Coachella Valley Workforce. Open to students, professionals and multidisciplinary teams, the contest is offering $350,000 in prize money and has a simple premise: envision a new way to meet the need for healthy, affordable, sustainable housing for the Coachella Valley’s low-income workers. As Luna puts it, “Public health outcomes are affected by housing.”

Besides the California Endowment, the organization is partnering with a number of groups to move the competition—and ultimately the discussion of housing forward—PlaceWorks, acting as the lead competition and project coordinator; the County of Riverside for project site identification and policy guidance; Coachella ValleyAssociation of Governments also for policy guidance; Pueblo Unido CDC, Inc, acting as a community advisor; and Wondros, for marketing and outreach support. The jury will similarly be composed of a experts from the worlds of design, finance and policy, not to mention community stakeholders, since, “if someone isn’t willing to live in it, it’s totally missing the mark,” notes Luna.

This could be the start of something very big. “It’s the first time the Endowment has done this,” says Luna. “Other communities and our sister sites are watching.”

Registration opens next month. For more information on the competition, click here.

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