Now more than ever, we need the skills of architects and designers to build sustainable and affordable housing. This is evident in cities around the world, where lower-income residents often have no choice but overcome hardships overlooked by developers looking to target more affluent inhabitants.

Enter the Community Design Agency (CDA), an architecture and design agency with a vision to create “an inclusive world where every human enjoys access to vibrant, safe, and healthy spaces to live, work, and play.”

An initiative of the Curry Stone Design Collective, the sustainably-minded CDA recently worked with both the Ahmednagar Municipal Corporation and non-profit group Snhalaya on a project meant to revitalize the housing blocks in the city of Ahmednagar, India. The city’s Sanjaynagar neighborhood in particular is plagued by subpar living conditions, including homes built from unsuitable reclaimed materials like scrap metal and a lack of adequate sanitation facilities.

The community’s residents directly contributed to the design of the buildings’ interiors. As CDA Managing Director Sandhya Naidu Janardhan explains, the overall process “evolved at different scales of the neighborhood [from] the masterplan…[to] each family designing their apartment interiors.” The result is an “apartment typology [that] allows for multiple combinations and iterations based on the preference of families.”

The new housing will literally transform the area, creating a vibrant multipurpose living space that continues the neighborhood’s community-minded ethos. Built with locally-made bricks and understated decorative features, the units are so much more than the cookie-cutter constructions commonly associated with affordable housing. And the residents’ input did prove to be invaluable, as their requests for good lighting, ventilation, and adequate space for their families, pets, and livestock helped the designers envision a space where real people could live, work, and thrive.

Over 30 families have already moved into the completed homes, but they’ll eventually house almost 300 families, with construction of the remaining homes beginning in November 2022. With the completion of the development, Sanjaynagar will be one step closer to becoming a vibrant and affordable place for the locals to call home.