Design Leadership

Design is a key element of successful affordable housing development. Our Design Leadership initiative provides tools, programs and research to support developers in mastering their design process, allowing them to drive positive resident and community outcomes, solve increasingly complex development challenges and control costs.

Our programs and tools to support developers include the Affordable Housing Design Leadership Institute (AHDLI), The Rose Fellowship, the Design Matters framework and toolkit, Policy Research and wide-ranging tools and case studies.

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Design Matters

Visit Design Matters to get the tools and practices to achieving good design on any affordable housing development, regardless of context or budget.

Affordable Housing Design Leadership Institute

2021 Institute
Theme: Equitable Practice: Designing and Developing Healing-Centered Housing  

About the Program

  • How can the design process foster and improve equity? 
  • How can housing promote healing and reflect a definition of health that is inclusive of cultural identity, social determinants of health, and mental and physical wellbeing?
  • How can housing celebrate community strengths and assets, strengthen relationships and connections, and mitigate displacement and loss of diversity and culture? 
  • How can housing prioritize people as much as buildings? 

These are some of the questions we will collectively consider through the 2021 Affordable Housing Design Leadership Institute. 

The Affordable Housing Design Leadership Institute (AHDLI) provides affordable housing developers with the design tools, ideas¬ and relationships necessary to cut through complex financing and regulatory constraints and deliver housing that more deeply meets the needs and wants of residents and communities. The outcome is housing that is not just a roof over people’s heads, but¬ is designed as a steppingstone to more. Never has it been clearer that among those resident and community needs are equity and healing from the decades of trauma and harm exerted by racist housing and financing systems. 

Throughout this year’s completely virtual AHDLI program, we will investigate how the design process can deliver equitable and healing housing. Developers will learn and apply leading-edge predevelopment practices to a real project in their pipeline. In addition to gaining tactical tools and project specific feedback from leading national designers, participating developers will be on an equity learning journey, interrogating their agency to center healing in projects and in their day-to-day development practices.   

Program Objectives

Throughout this program, developers of affordable housing will: 

Will learn to integrate healing and equity into a specific development project by: 

  • Reflecting on development practices at the individual and organizational level that may unintentionally be fortifying systems of racial inequity.  
  • Learning the foundational practices to create healing centered processes and meetings that support the well-being of development practitioners and communities. 

Build technical design skills to:

  • Meet development objectives, from healing and equity, to sustainability, cost control and QAP alignment.
  • Increase comfort and knowledge of design concepts and tools. 
  • Sharpen community engagement skills to gain higher quality, more useful input and partnership.

Application will be open May 26, 2021 through June 23, 2021. 


The program will be a series of eight two-hour online learning sessions, meeting from mid-September through early December. In addition, each team will have individual project charrette/workshop sessions, where they will get coached by leading designers and practitioners on how to apply the concepts presented to a project in their pre-development pipeline. 

All curriculum content will be delivered virtually. The curriculum will be built around teams applying all learning to a specific project in their pre-development pipeline. The program will be designed collaboratively by Enterprise’s Design and Culture & Creativity teams and will build from the strategies and tools highlighted in Enterprise’s Design Matters Curriculum and Building to Heal: A Framework for Holistic Community Development

Curriculum Topics will Include: 

  • Laying the Groundwork: Public Policy + Racial Injustice in the Built Environment
  • Introducing Design Justice + Healing Centered Practice
  • Learning and applying 9 Core Design Tools + Trauma-informed Design Principles 
  • Principles and Tools for Authentic Community Engagement 
  • Developing a Project Mission: Ensuring Big Ideas Beat Value Engineering 
  • Final Presentations + Program Wrap Up 
  • Studio Sessions: Two one-on-one project workshops with a design team of national professionals chosen to support teams’ project goals. 

Selection Criteria

Mission-driven developers of affordable housing are encouraged to apply.

Applications must show:

  • An interest in completing reflective and introspective work around racial equity and development practices at the team and individual level.  
  • A development project in pre-development with site control and a concept schematic. Site plans and massing options should be in place. Some portion of the community engagement process must remain to be completed.  
  • A track record for completing real estate projects that are well-designed, culturally and environmentally sustainable and rely on meaningful community participation.
  • A development team with 2-3 members to participate fully in the Institute, ideally including the Executive Director and/or the Directors of Real Estate (or equivalent) and one or members of the Resident Services and/or Property Management teams. 
  • Demonstrated leadership capacity, commitment to innovation, and eagerness to learn and implement lessons from the Institute within their organizations.


  • All team members who are included in the application should have the intention to participating in ALL sessions, unless written, advance notice is given (specific dates will be shared when the class is announced).  
  • It is expected that the program will take 1-3 hours/week for 12 weeks (the 3-hour weeks would be weeks including the online learning session).  
  • The curriculum and project charrette are delivered at no cost to the participant.

Application will be open May 26, 2021 through June 23, 2021. 

Apply Now

Download the Fact Sheet
Read about Past Participants’ Outcomes

Design & Policy Agenda

In addition to directly supporting affordable housing developers to enhance their design skills and processes, the Enterprise Design Team, in partnership with our policy team, researches and advocates for local and national policy solutions that support design innovation and excellence. As part of this agenda, in 2017 Enterprise partnered with the Harvard Joint Center on Housing on a paper called, Creating Well-Designed Affordable Housing: Opportunities and Obstacles.  Read more about the results of that research.

In addition, our Design and Policy teams are collaborating on the series: New Reflections on Affordable Housing Design, Policy and Construction, which was launched with the first paper: “Overcoming Barriers to Bringing Off-Site Construction to Scale.” 

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