This 19th-century Victorian in Cambridge, Massachusetts, has lived a few different lives. Once a single family home, it later became an office building. After it fell into disrepair, the city bought it and has now converted it into temporary emergency housing for families in need.
The city’s Department of Human Service Programs hired local firm HMFH Architects to gut the interior and built out ten units large enough to house an adult and two children. Each unit has a private bathroom, and the floors share kitchens and dining areas.
The architects restored the exterior of the building, transforming its dilapidated white siding into something closer to the building’s original state with a mansard roof, cornices, and trim. In a modern twist, the roof is lined with solar panels, which fulfill more than 40 percent of the building’s energy needs.
Cities across the country are rethinking how to approach emergency housing, with many taking a “housing-first” approach that decriminalizes homelessness and provides families and individuals with shelter while they receive help. Cambridge’s effort follows suit; it’s an impressive example of how cities can make use of existing housing stock to design thoughtful and efficient housing for people in need.