Kishani De Silva on Designing New Affordable Housing Models for L.A.

Woodbury BArch graduate Kishani De Silva was recently named a FUSE Corps Executive Fellow with the The Community Development Commission and Housing Authority of the County of Los Angeles. FUSE Corps is a national nonprofit that partners with local government to help urban communities. Her work is looking at how to lift low-income residents by addressing poverty, homelessness, and workforce and small business development. To bolster this work, the county is creating a new division centered around strategic partnerships and new initiatives.

Kishani is designing a plan for the division that helps the county more effectively and sustainably carry out its mission. As part of this work, she will guide the execution of new initiatives that expand opportunities and benefits to economically disadvantaged residents. The goal is to maximize limited resources, accelerate progress on poverty and homelessness, and more fully assist residents of L.A. County. The county is considering a variety of housing possibilities, including micro-housing units, which are typically about the size of a college dormitory room. De Silva is exploring the feasibility of constructing 3D printed houses.

“Stemming from the notion that one size does not fit all, alternative housing models are needed to house displaced populations faster,” De Silva said. Ultimately, she said there is an imperative to end generational poverty, as well as help those who have recently become victims of earthquakes and forest fires and need shelter immediately. “We want to reduce construction time and cost in order to increase housing supply and secure housing stability,” De Silva said. “Using a smarter, faster, cheaper model, the micro-housing pilot aims to address demand.”

Pilot Projects & 3D Printing

In Los Angeles, De Silva is spearheading a pilot project designed to develop micro-housing units, including 3D printed houses, on two vacant parcels of land that the LACDA already owns. The pilot gives the county a chance to compare different housing designs for price, time to completion, and market viability. The LACDA will use this data to refine its methods for providing affordable housing. In doing so, it hopes to take one more step toward ending generational poverty by offering a menu of options that ensures people who need housing can find a roof over their heads.

Kishani has has worked as a project manager for nearly 20 years, specializing in the architecture and design industries, where she managed and negotiated contracts for international firms. Following her time at Foster + Partners in London, she started her own management consultancy and completed reading for an MSc in major program management at the University of Oxford. She has an executive leadership certification from Cornell and a BArch from Woodbury University, where she was adjunct faculty and taught management, entrepreneurship, and leadership components at the graduate level. She sits on several local boards for organizations focused on equity and social and economic justice.

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