Preservation of Affordable Housing

Cincinnati, Ohio | Wareham and Boston, Massachusetts |  Independence, Missouri

Designing Trauma-Resilient Communities directly engages people who live and work in affordable housing to create an environment that embodies safety, trust, choice, collaboration, and empowerment. The innovation draws on the principles of trauma-informed care to transform property management, resident services, and housing design.

Three woman sitting at a table talking

Preservation of Affordable Housing (POAH) is a nonprofit developer, owner and operator of over 12,000 affordable homes in 11 states and the District of Columbia. POAH’s mission is to preserve, create and sustain affordable, healthy homes that support economic security, racial equity and access to opportunity for all.

A trauma-informed approach reimagines how residents are served, how buildings are designed, how rules are created and communicated, and how community development is driven by the people who live and work there. 
Innovation team: Design Impact, Stewards of Affordable Housing for the Future, The Center for Trauma Informed Innovation at University Health, Community Services League, and MASS Design Group.

An apartment courtyard with yellow lawn chairs and greenery
Flat 9 at Whittier in Boston’s Roxbury neighborhood is one of four sites where POAH is implementing Designing Trauma-Resilient Communities.


Trauma is a pervasive health concern in the United States – more than 64% of adults have experienced one form of childhood trauma, a number that increases when experiences of racism or discrimination are included. Left unaddressed, trauma impacts physical health and can disrupt everyday skills such as problem solving, managing priorities, or building trusting relationships.

A safe, affordable place to call home can support healing. But rules and regulations affecting residents, property managers, and owners are common in affordable rental housing and can often make it difficult to create supportive home environments.


Designing Trauma-Resilient Communities draws on new insights into how trauma impacts the body and brain to create communities where economic mobility is the long-term goal and residents and staff can truly thrive.

The innovation focuses on working with the people who know these issues best – residents and staff – and creating new housing models that prioritize well-being. Working with trauma-informed facilitators, residents engage as co-designers – developing changes to programs, management practices, and the physical design of their properties.

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“Without this award, we wouldn’t have been able to recruit the amazing experts in behavioral health, human-centered design, and architecture, along with every resident and staff member we could bring to this project. All of that was essential.”
― Julianna Stuart, Preservation of Affordable Housing

Trauma-informed design can support feelings of safety and empowerment and markedly improve health: providing abundant natural light, arranging seating so that a staff person’s back isn’t to the door, and developing a range of inclusive spaces for residents and staff to gather and move through.

A mother and her son walking down the street smiling
When Marissa Rogers and her son Jordan lived at Flat 9, she lent her expertise as a social worker to collaborate with staff and residents on ways to make their community trauma informed.


Designing Trauma-Resilient Communities seeks to demonstrate that prioritizing resident and staff well-being can reduce evictions, improve resident and staff retention, promote health, and create opportunities for communities to thrive. The success of this innovation will transform how rental homes are designed, managed, and sustained.

Making trauma-informed approaches standard practice will give property owners, developers, designers, and others a roadmap for creating homes and communities that are safe and comfortable for everyone.

Safe and Secure

See how staff and residents leading POAH’s Designing Trauma-Resilient Communities innovation are reimagining affordable housing through trauma-informed care and its core principles: safety, trustworthiness, choice, collaboration, and empowerment.

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Meet the Grant Winners

A nationwide competition for the top housing innovations unveiled six winning ideas, from driving rural homeownership to radically capturing carbon.