Solving the Housing Crisis: Where Does Design Fit In?

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There is a widely acknowledged housing crisis in the US today: workers and young families are finding it increasingly difficult to find housing they can afford that suits their needs. Wages have not kept pace with housing costs, and not enough new housing has been developed to meet growing demand.

Housing developers are looking for innovative ways to create attainable housing, and they partner with multi-disciplinary design teams and municipalities to make these projects a reality.

Developing housing that is affordable requires solutions from multiple perspectives: developers look to designers for creative solutions in all aspects of a project, from identifying efficiencies in site design, construction, and resource use, to understanding how the housing will integrate into the existing community.

An architect, an urban planner, a municipal planner, and a developer will discuss the working partnerships between designers, developers, and municipalities and the role that design plays to create housing that meets the State’s needs. Check out Union Studio for more information.

* This event is approved for AIA CEU - 1.5 LU

These events are being recorded and photographed. By attending, you give your consent to be photographed, filmed, taped, and/or recorded.


Stephanie Zurek

Union Studio

Stephanie Zurek is a natural leader with a passion for making positive changes through her work and in her community. Stephanie is committed to advocating for social equity both within and through the profession, especially as it relates to the effects of climate change. During her decade plus tenure with Union Studio, Stephanie has served as project manager on many of the firm’s most challenging architectural and urban design projects, ranging from the design of a library for the Town of Tiverton, to a study of the impacts of sea level rise on a historic neighborhood in Newport.

Stephanie earned her Master of Science in Sustainable Urban Development at the University of Oxford. In 2011, Stephanie received a highly competitive LeBrun Travel Grant which enabled her to travel to Indonesia to study urban villages.

She has volunteered for Big Sisters of Rhode Island and served as a board member of the Narragansett Boat Club, on the Leadership Council of Amos House, and as a board member of CNU New England. Stephanie served as President of AIA Rhode Island and was a founding member of the Providence Chapter of Architecture for Humanity. Stephanie currently sits on the board of Women’s Development Corporation.

Jeff C. Davis

Horsley Witten Group

Jeff C. Davis, AICP is a project planner in the Providence office of the Horsley Witten Group. He is a practicing professional planner of over 15 years, first in the greater Washington, DC area, and then in New England for the past eight years. He has worked on a variety of planning and community development projects in past positions in the public and non‐profit sectors, and is currently working on planning and zoning projects for public sector clients. His experience underscores the interrelation of land use, housing, economic development, and social issues in the creation of community assessments, neighborhood plans, comprehensive/master plans and other local, regional and statewide community planning efforts. Jeff has a long track record of assisting communities and organizations to develop and implement meaningful community engagement strategies that strengthen plans.

Jennifer Hawkins

ONE Neighborhood Builders

Jennifer Hawkins received her Masters of Public Administration from New York University and her BA from Connecticut College. She has over twenty years of experience in the non-profit community development and housing sectors. She has worked in senior management positions with organizations that tackle the most pressing concerns for low-income individuals, including Women’s Development Corporation, Providence Housing Authority, Madison Park Development Corporation, and Breaking Ground. In her current role as Executive Director of ONE Neighborhood Builders, Hawkins spearheads local efforts to eradicate housing insecurity, and promote safe, healthy Providence neighborhoods.

Roberta Groch

Rhode Island Division of Statewide Planning

Roberta Groch, AICP is an Assistant Chief at the Rhode Island Division of Statewide Planning, where her duties include transportation access planning, economic development, and municipal technical assistance, information and outreach. She has worked for the East Providence Waterfront Development District, the City of Providence Department of Planning and Development, the Framingham Planning Department and two private consulting firms. She has served as a board member of the RI Chapter of the American Planning Association (APA) since 2016 and has been a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners since 1999. Ms. Groch has served various board roles for the annual Southern New England APA (SNEAPA) conference since 2004 and has been as a panelist and moderator for conference sessions about ethics, urban agriculture, zoning, and climate change. She holds a Master’s in Community Planning from the University of Rhode Island and a BA from Boston University in English and Women’s Studies. She has lived in Providence for twenty‐five years.

Ben Willis

Union Studio

Ben Willis is a licensed architect interested in making buildings that serve, delight, and elevate the everyday experiences of a community, and increasing public participation in this pursuit. He received his Bachelor of Architecture degree from the University of Notre Dame, with a concentration in furniture design, and was designated class Salutatorian. After working with a custom residential architecture firm in La Jolla, CA, he joined Union Studio in 2014, where has worked on modular, multifamily, and student housing projects across the country, and was part of the award-winning Side Hustle House team.

Ben writes regularly for the Common Edge Collaborative, a national website that addresses pressing issues in the built environment. He currently sits on the Providence Preservation Society’s Planning & Architectural Review committee, the board of DownCity Design, the State House Historical Interpretation working group, serves as an ACE mentor, and is an avid a cappella musician, serving as a founding member and director of design for Collegium Ancora, a professional chamber choir in Rhode Island.