Posted on February 28, 2024 by Sean M. Wood

Communities connected throughout San Antonio

Communities connected throughout San Antonio

The SOM Foundation awarded its 2023 Research Prize to a team from UTSA’s Klesse College of Engineering and Integrated Design for explorations into the future of housing in San Antonio. Led by Ian Caine, director of the Center for Urban and Regional Planning Research, the team’s project pairs data analysis and design thinking to redefine the concept of vacancy and explore innovative solutions for affordable housing. 

More than one million people are expected to move into Bexar County during the next 25 years. That will require at least half a million new housing units. The project, funded with $40,000 from the SOM Foundation and additional support from the City of San Antonio, will leverage data analysis to assess the amount of underutilized land along commercial strips and generate new affordable housing prototypes for the sites. 

Caine, the principal investigator, is joined by assistant professors Wei Zhai and Esteban López Ochoa from the School of Architecture + Planning. Also on the team are Rudy Niño, Jr., interim director of planning for the City of San Antonio and Christine Quattro, an assistant professor at Appalachian State University and expert in land development regulations. 

Caine said the idea for the project started several years ago when he and his students began counting and sorting the vacant properties along San Antonio’s commercial strips. “After that, we designed new multifamily housing scenarios for the available land,” he said. “This laid the groundwork. Now the funding gives us a chance to do it again, this time in a comprehensive way, leveraging the power of data science. It's a great opportunity for us to finish what we started.” 




Caine said the work aligns directly with UTSA’s mission as an urban-serving institution. “This project epitomizes UTSA's commitment to advancing research and discovery that addresses pressing societal issues,” he said. By leveraging data analysis and design thinking, the team aims to accelerate conversations around housing production and tackle the challenges posed by rapid population growth in San Antonio. 

“Housing is a defining challenge and obligation for all cities,” Caine said. “Housing has to align with social needs, architectural demands, financial realities, and political dynamics. That’s why the members of our research team span urban design, planning, architecture, economics, and policy. We want this project to sharpen policy questions and expand the range of potential solutions to San Antonio's housing crisis.” 

Caine said the team will gather data over the summer, analyze it in the fall, and design the housing prototypes next spring. They will post their findings on the SOM Foundation’s website so anyone can access them for free. 

— Sean M. Wood