Affordable Green Housing
Education Excerpt 2:36 min
Affordable Green Housing
PDF Documentation

While the modern definition of community focuses on the commonalities between its members, the scientific definition puts more emphasis on the variety of individuals living within the community. Jonathan Rose, a third-generation New York developer, has built a philosophy on the concept that the diversity and complexity of a community is what provides its strength and, ultimately, its sustainability. New York City is known for its diversity, which is probably why there are so many strong communities in the city, but this diversity hasn't always been reflected in its low income housing. In an effort to provide as much housing as possible at the lowest cost, affordable housing projects have often ignored important social and cultural aspects of the communities they are built to serve. But Jonathan Rose has been striving to rethink what affordable housing could and, in his opinion, should be.

The mission of Jonathan Rose's company is to "repair the fabric of communities." He attempts to accomplish this goal in many ways, only one of which is by building affordable housing projects that respect the natural environment around them, the people who will live within them and the existing communities that will welcome them. This episode follows Rose through three neighborhoods in which his sustainably-designed housing projects are changing people's perception of what affordable housing can be. The projects featured include the Burnham Building in Irvington, New York; the Joyce and David Dinkins' Gardens project in Harlem; and the as-yet-to-be-built mixed-income development Via Verde, which will ultimately rise in the South Bronx.


1. What do you think of when you hear the term affordable housing? What images come to mind of both the buildings and their tenants?

2. What makes a neighborhood a community? List some of the elements in your opinion that are essential to a community.

3. Do you live in an area/community that is mixed-income or level income? Do you think much about it? If you experienced the opposite, how do you think it would influence you?

4. What are some places within walking distance of your home (e.g., stores, parks, theaters, community centers)? What are some places you would like to have and not have within walking distance of your home? Why?

5. Do you learn more when you talk to a person that is more or less like you? What about when you visit a place that is more or less like your hometown? Why?

Link to resources to conduct research on these topics.


1. According to Jonathan Rose, how does diversity strengthen a community? What different types of diversity does he talk about?

2. Why does Jonathan Rose believe that a community is more likely to be sustainable if it's diverse? Do you agree with him? Why or why not?

3. How can a real estate developer "repair the fabric of communities"? What types of buildings contribute to the fabric of a community in a positive way? In a negative way (e.g., homogeneous vs. heterogeneous population, commercial vs. residential, shared space vs. private space)?



Standard 11.2: Knows different viewpoints regarding the role and value of diversity in American life.


Engineering Education
Standard 9.4: Understands the steps involved in designing construction projects (e.g., planning, generating layouts, developing drawings with measurements and details of construction considering constraints, selecting materials).

Standard 14.4: Understands how societal interests, economics, ergonomics, and environmental considerations influence a solution.

Standard 17.6: Understands tradeoffs among characteristics such as safety, function, cost, ease of operation, quality of post-purchase support, and environmental impact when selecting systems for specific purposes.


Standard 3.3: Knows that alternatives, risks, costs, and benefits must be considered when deciding on proposals to introduce new technologies or to curtail existing ones (e.g., Are there alternative ways to achieve the same ends? Who benefits and who suffers? What are the financial and social costs and who bears them? How serious are the risks and who is in jeopardy? What resources will be needed and where will they come from?)

Standard 4.6: Knows that a design involves different design factors (e.g., ergonomics, maintenance and repair, environmental concerns) and design principles (e.g., flexibility, proportion, function).

Standard 6.8: Knows different requirements for structural design (e.g., strength, maintenance, appearance) and that these structures require maintenance.

Affordable Green Housing

Education Excerpt 2:36 min

Affordable Green Housing
PDF Documentation