Submission: January 31, 2019
Registration: December 15, 2018
Language: English
Location: Concept
Prizes: Please see details below
Type: Open


Disruptive Design is a three-part design competition that seeks to address the challenges associated with designing and building affordable, owner-occupied housing. The competition was initiated by the Chicago Housing Policy Task Force — a diverse group of organizations invested in creating affordable housing in Chicago — and carried out by a team of individuals representing those organizations.

Architects, designers, students, and those invested in urban development are invited to submit their speculative ideas for an owner-occupied housing development incorporating a flexible architectural solution that encourages wealth-building through homeownership and entrepreneurship in Chicago. The competition will conclude with an occupant/buyer-ready prototype of the winning design.


Cities across the country are observing a rapid decline in affordable homeownership options for first-time buyers and working families – defined here as buyers earning around 100% AMI. This represents a household of three earning about $75,000 in Chicago, or $61,000 nationally. In Chicago, the desire for affordable and accessible housing, with opportunities for flexibility and aging in place, is present in both gentrifying and underserved Chicago neighborhoods. In gentrifying areas, land values rise with desirability; in underserved areas, depreciated property and land values produce an appraisal gap that prohibits new development.

Further, the construction of new affordable, owner-occupied housing is expensive and only becoming costlier. As the cost of construction and labor increases and incomes do not grow at pace, the affordability gap between what young professionals, small families, or first-time homebuyers can afford and the cost of construction becomes apparent to both developers and buyers—it is no longer advantageous to build starter homes. Subsidies, while helpful, cannot be the only long-term solution to this issue.

Finally, recognizing that developing new housing in communities experiencing poverty can create economic stratification and gentrification, affordable housing solutions of the future must address how to build wealth and create healthy mixed-income communities.


Architects must innovate for affordability, utilizing new construction materials and methods, and providing single-family homes with opportunities for live-work situations, growing families, aging in place, accessibility for people with disabilities, and a new focus on the “gig” economy. This competition seeks solutions to the affordable housing gap that would allow for the development of sustainable, affordable, replicable, dynamic and multi-faceted housing solutions that build wealth and opportunities for homeowners across Chicago. Submissions will yield a new housing typology infused with equity and possibility. Home designs submitted in this competition may not exceed a $250,000 sales price. The competition is divided into three phases, each of which asks submitters to consider ideas, design, and feasibility for actualization.


There are no fees associated with entering the competition.


This Design Competition is open to all with the following exclusions: • Entries shall not have been previously published in any competition publication, whether printed, online or otherwise • Entries shall not have been selected as finalists, winner, honorable mention, etc. in any other competition • It is strongly recommended that each team include a licensed architect in Phase 1. Those selected to continue on to Phase 2 will be required to include a licensed architect. The winning project must include or engage an architect licensed in the state of Illinois • Current employees of Disruptive Design funders, jurors, sponsors, or task force organizations are not eligible to enter. Teams submitting to Phase 1 will be required to sign a disclosure of non-affiliation prior to jurying


The jury will review the submission and select the finalists based on these criteria:

• Compliance with all submission requirements

• Adherence to the design parameters

• Believable constructability within identified budget parameters

• Suitability of design for intended use

• Aesthetic merit

• Responsiveness to neighborhood and site context for all selected lots

• Plans for accessibility and aging in place

Go to the competition’s website