The Southern California Chapter (SCC) of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Classical America (ICA&CA) recently held the first Affordable Housing Design Competition, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Greater Los Angeles, to help dispel some of the social and stylistic stigmas associated with affordable housing through vernacular design.

"Often, developers of low-income housing face NIMBYism," says Diane Sipos, ICA&CA SCC coordinator. "We know that there is such a huge need in Los Angeles, as well as all over the country, for affordable housing, and we thought we could give Habitat [representatives] some beautiful plans that they can use for houses," with the goal of helping "them overcome some of the community resistance they encounter."

More than 25 design teams from around the country entered the competition, and each was assigned a different category of Southern California residential vernacular—Spanish Colonial, Craftsman, English Colonial Revival, mid-century modern, and contemporary—and a set of design criteria to follow, including Habitat for Humanity's square footage and cost parameters. According to Sipos, designs also had to be volunteer-friendly to accommodate Habitat's use of non-skilled volunteer workers.

"This was a great way to harness the talent of our members," says Sipos. "It was a fun challenge for the teams to have to do something at such a small scale and with such extreme budget constraints."

A jury selected one winning design in each category, as well as the best overall design. The winners are:

Best Overall Design and Best Spanish Colonial
Cindy Grant Architecture Inc., AIA, of Sherman Oaks, Calif., with Tierra Sol y Mar of Venice, Calif., and Brooke Gardner Interior Design of Calabasas, Calif.

Best Craftsman
William Hefner Architecture, Interiors, and Landscape of Los Angeles

Best Mid-Century Modern
KAA Design Group of Los Angeles with Kaplan Gehring McCarroll Architectural Lighting of Los Angeles

Best Contemporary
William Hefner Architecture, Interiors and Landscape

Best English Colonial Revival
Michael G. Imber Architects of San Antonio

The winning designs will be published in a pattern book for use by Habitat for Humanity, its affiliates, and any other design or building practitioners interested in Southern California vernacular design. Scheduled for release in 2010, the ICA&CA Southern California Chapter's regionally focused pattern book will build on the work started by the national organization when, in 2007, it published A Pattern Book for Neighborly Houses. That book, produced with Habitat for Humanity International, was created to help the charity's affiliates design homes that fit within existing community contexts and local architectural traditions.

"What we found from the book the national ICA&CA produced is that it's just a good template for design that anyone can use," Sipos says.