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A new graduate certificate program at the University at Buffalo will train professionals in the design, planning and development of affordable housing. (Photo: Douglas Levere / University at Buffalo)
A new graduate certificate program at the University at Buffalo will train professionals in the design, planning and development of affordable housing. (Photo: Douglas Levere / University at Buffalo)

New UB certificate program prepares professionals to address affordable housing crisis


Fri, Aug 19th 2022 06:55 pm

By the University at Buffalo

The University at Buffalo’s School of Architecture and Planning has launched a graduate certificate in affordable housing to help address the affordable housing crisis facing cities across the U.S.

Launching this fall, the certificate will train professionals in the design, planning and development of affordable housing through an interdisciplinary curriculum engaging the school’s programs in real estate development, architecture and urban planning.

Courses are taught by top scholars and industry executives and include housing and development policy, affordable housing finance, design for inclusive environments, planning and development law, architectural design, and a culminating capstone studio or independent research project. 

The certificate program is open to students from all academic backgrounds and can be completed on its own in as little as 12 months, or concurrently with any UB graduate degree. The program is also designed for advancing professionals in sectors where specialized knowledge in affordable housing is in high demand, including real estate development, community development, architecture and urban planning, and public policy.

According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, 6.8 million affordable housing units are needed for extremely low-income families across the United States, while 70% of these families pay more than half their income on rent. An overreliance on federal and state tax subsidies and aging housing stock in transitioning cities like Buffalo create additional barriers to housing affordability.

“Inadequate housing is one of the most complex challenges facing cities today and is closely related to poor outcomes in health and safety, economic opportunity, quality of life and even food security,” said Robert G. Shibley, dean and SUNY Distinguished Professor at the School of Architecture and Planning.

“This certificate program harnesses the school’s full scholarly and teaching enterprise in support of sustainable, equitable living environments for all,” Shibley added.

Building On History of Research in Affordable Housing

The school has a long history of research and teaching in affordable housing and, in 2018, launched the UB Affordable Housing Initiative to advance prototypes in the City of Buffalo with the potential for replication in cities across the U.S. The body of work also includes innovations in materials and construction, case studies in housing for people with disabilities and older residents, and strategies for more equitable housing and development practices.

During the spring semester, an architecture studio developed four affordable “tiny home” prototypes, now under construction in Syracuse. Case studies engage global contexts as diverse as the rapidly urbanizing environments of Africa and post-Socialist housing in the Baltic States.

Meanwhile, new investments in affordable housing from the public sector have created a unique window of opportunity for innovation in the affordable housing space.

“We are already seeing a number of our graduates with burgeoning careers in affordable housing,” said Matthew Roland, UB assistant dean and clinical assistant professor of real estate development, who is overseeing the program. “Our hope is that the new graduate certificate in affordable housing can educate real estate professionals to address the desperate need to create a more inclusive and sustainable pattern of development in the future.”

UB's Inaugural Affordable Housing Fellow

Drawing upon a robust network of industry partners, the school has also appointed an inaugural Affordable Housing Fellow to advance the program’s practice-based research and curricular innovation.

Dale White, principal for acquisitions and development at Bastogne Development Partners, leads affordable housing projects in urban markets across the United States. He was formerly director of real estate at The Brownsville Partnership, where he guided implementation of The Brownsville Plan, a collective strategy for the equitable development of the distressed Brooklyn neighborhood through the lens of health, housing and economic mobility.

An expert in affordable housing finance, White is also a former development manager with the Jonathan Rose Companies, where he led over $500 million in affordable housing projects across the Northeast and oversaw the firm’s investments in below-market debt and equity for community development.

A Buffalo native, White says he was 9 when he began to wonder why so many homes in his eastside neighborhood were being demolished. Many of these disparities remain today. As an undergraduate student at UB, he joined the environmental design program after taking a class taught by a local developer.

“It was the best decision of my life,” said White, who received his Bachelor of Arts in environmental design (BAED) from UB in 2005. “The BAED led to an internship with the City of Buffalo, meeting developers, and discovering real estate development.”

White says his roots in Buffalo continue to drive his work: “It all stems from finding a solution for my hometown. Drive down Bailey, Broadway and Elmwood avenues and you get three different experiences. We’re at a critical point today, where we have an opportunity to build back our cities equitably, thoughtfully and in a way that can leverage resources instead of wasting them.”

White adds that Buffalo is an ideal laboratory for creative approaches to affordable housing finance, including historic tax credits, low-income housing tax credits, and community land trusts.

“There are different ways to look at permutations of affordability that don’t result in disparities in ownership. We need to build equity in communities that have sat through decades of despair.”

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