Housing is Healthcare

Housing is Healthcare

Housing is Healthcare

The connection between housing and healthcare has become increasingly clear in the past decade, and even more critical during the current pandemic. Studies show that unhoused populations are more likely to have adverse health conditions, and that added health stress can lead to chronic houselessness. In the past decade, we have seen short term and chronic houselessness increase steadily, and Oregon has some of the highest rates in the country. According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), seventeen out of 10,000 people in the US is currently experiencing houselessness. In Oregon, that rate grows to 38 out of 10,000, and in Multnomah County, the rate is a staggering fifty out of 10,000 people.

As architects, our work is intrinsically linked to the housing crisis. From individual housing projects to large scale urban planning, we have the opportunity to design creative and dignified solutions that make the most of available resources and help to curb the rate of houselessness. At Holst, we find the statistics sobering yet solvable, and we are driven to doing as much as we can to affect change by supporting our clients' missions through our work, advocacy, philanthropy, and volunteerism.

Holst has partnered with numerous non-profit organizations to bring housing and resources to the most vulnerable members of our community. We fundamentally believe that to do this work we must foster strong partnerships with shared vision and goals. It is vital that we listen to understand the needs not only of the organization with whom we partner but also the communities that these projects serve. It is through listening that we are then able to be innovators and design dignified homes that work for those who need them most.

Bud Clark Commons

The Bud Clark Commons is a groundbreaking project that provides a continuum of care from basic off-the-street services to permanent supportive housing. Located on the Broadway corridor in NW Portland, it provides services to some of the most vulnerable members of our community. Since 2011, the Day Center has served approximately 4,000 unique individuals per year and numerous housing residents have transitioned into independent permanent housing. City data also shows that residents see a fifty percent decrease in Medicaid spending in the first year of occupancy, and near the national average of spending after two years of occupancy.

An important part of creating long term solutions to housing insecurity is to consider the operation and maintenance of a building, as well as the buildings environmental impact. The Bud Clark Commons employs a balance of design, durability, and sustainability that allows it to provide essential housing for decades to come. The design team was thoughtful in the selection of materials and organization of spaces to create an environment that is uplifting, provides access to air and natural light, and is durable in the long term to serve the operational needs of the building.


72Foster is an affordable multi-family housing project in the Mt. Scott Arleta neighborhood of SE Portland developed by REACH CDC and targeted to Asian and Latinx households. This neighborhood has seen a large influx of displaced individuals and families, who can experience deep migration trauma as they try to establish new community connections and a sense of belonging. Our design team worked closely with local community organizations to learn what steps we could take to minimize trauma and help potential residents feel at home. Community members taught us that housing needs for Asian and Latinx households differed from what we saw as “standard” housing; they are more likely to be intergenerational and require space to host family and community gatherings. The project has a unique combination of studio, one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments with larger units targeted towards families with young children and smaller units targeted towards seniors. Inside each unit, we designed a robust ventilation system to accommodate specific cooking needs. At the ground floor, a large community room opens up to a public courtyard and a wood-clad passthrough connects the community to the neighboring Portland Mercado. Murals by local artist Haruka Ostley bring beauty and liveliness to public spaces.

Argyle Gardens

Informed by lessons learned from Bud Clark Commons and research on transitional housing best practices, Holst worked with Transition Projects to develop a new model for infill transitional housing called LISAH (Low Income Single Adult Housing). Designed as a kit of parts, LISAH employs a modular system that can be configured in different ways to serve numerous populations including the houseless, workforce, seniors, and students. Many residential housing codes define one housing unit as a maximum of six individuals, which is also an ideal number for fostering a sense of community in co-housing developments. In residential zones that allow for duplex development, one LISAH building can provide housing for twelve individuals, making it an ideal design for affordable infill development. Because exterior cladding and roofing occurs onsite, materials and roof shape can be tailored to individual neighborhoods so as not to disrupt the character of surrounding buildings.

Argyle Gardens, developed by Transition Projects for the Kenton neighborhood in North Portland, is the first buildout of LISAH and opened in March 2020. The project modules were construed off-site by MODS PDX and assembled on-site by Walsh Construction. Reserved for individuals transitioning out of houselessness, the project includes a mix of studio and co-housing units with a large community room and shared laundry services. Small, manageable unit sizes with built-in furniture and on-site resident services support the unique needs of residents coming out of long-term houselessness. The project was fully occupied within a month of opening, and residents have described feeling at home in a supportive community. We hope that the project will inspire additional LISAH developments to rapidly increase affordable housing opportunities.

Ultimately, these projects demonstrate the all-hands-on-deck approach that is necessary to solve our homelessness crisis in multiple ways. Additionally, they highlight the clear connection between adequate housing and improvements in health - two human rights that have been commoditized in our society for too long. Finally, they demonstrate that Americans are often given a false choice between affordability and quality. We can have both if a long-term vision and commitment is taken by both our local and national leaders. At Holst we look forward to being part of this long-term solution by continuing to create architecture that people love.

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