Salt Lake City

Salt Lake City launches tiny home, ADU design competition; seeks creative solutions for affordable housing shortage

July 21, 2021

SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake City wants to see what ideas its design-minded residents have for affordable, sustainable, accessible housing. Together with the American Institute of Architects Utah Chapter and the Community Development Corporation of Utah, the City today launched the Empowered Living Design Competition, inviting cause-minded designers, architects and others to submit their designs for small residences that could help address the City’s affordable housing shortage.

“There is no easy fix that will solve homelessness and housing insecurity. It’s going to require a multi-faceted approach and a lot of innovation and creativity,” Mayor Erin Mendenhall said. “The design concepts generated by this competition have the potential to help fill a gap in our housing stock. These small, unique properties could be life-changing for those who inhabit them.”

Participants are invited to submit a design for a standalone home or cluster of small cottages — also known as tiny homes — in a planned development, or an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) on a lot with a primary residence. Entries will be judged based on five criteria: affordability, accessibility, sustainability, durability, and livability. 

Two first-place winners will be awarded a $1000 cash prize and may be asked to develop the design through construction documents, which would occur through a separate procurement and contract process. A yet to be determined number of runners up will be awarded $500.

“Salt Lake City is excited to announce the Empowered Living Design Competition. By seeking the creativity and imaginations of design students and professionals, we hope to make inroads toward increasing affordability, choice, and equity in housing,” said Blake Thomas, Director of Salt Lake City’s Department of Community and Neighborhoods. “While this competition isn’t a silver bullet, we hope that it will be one piece of building a housing landscape that engenders security and is empowering for all of our residents.”

A lack of housing inventory has resulted in a significant increase in prices, making buying a home out of reach for many. Recent data shows that in Salt Lake County, the median home price increased 17% over the past year, while the number of active listings along the Wasatch Front have dropped between 11% and 32% over the same time period.

“An all-time low inventory of homes and increased prices have made it difficult for a household on a fixed income to live in Salt Lake City. Bringing various housing options, such as ADUs and tiny homes, means that people with a range of incomes can find a safe, healthy and affordable place to live,” said Mike Akerlow, CEO of CDCU. “CDCU looks forward to working with the American Institute of Architects Utah Chapter and Mayor Mendenhall and her team in this design competition and bringing housing affordability to the city.”

Applicants must register by Sept. 10, and submissions are due Oct 29. More information about the registration, submission, and judging process here:

“The American Institute of Architects Utah Chapter (AIA Utah) is excited to join in partnership with Salt Lake City and CDCU for the Empowered Living Design Competition. This competition is an open invitation to designers, architects, and students to submit ideas and designs for tiny homes and accessory dwelling units that will help to provide more affordable homes in the Salt Lake Area,” said Phil Haderlie, 2021 President of AIA Utah. “The AIA applauds the efforts of Salt Lake City Mayor Mendenhall and city staff to address this issue through the power of design and collaboration, and we are excited to see how these competition results will help to inform future decisions related to affordable housing in Salt Lake City.”


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