We Americans don't typically expect much from H.U.D. (The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development). This, after all, is an agency with a notorious history of corruption, regulatory capture by the interests it was created to regulate, and the abysmal strategy of "urban renewal," whereby hundreds of poor but cohesive neighborhoods were bulldozed and replaced by public housing projects. Urban renewal is probably the single policy most responsible for creating what has become the developed world's most entrenched permanent underclass, with concentrated poverty leading to neglible opportunities, broken families, drug abuse and crime. Hardly a record to trust.
Mrecent theories about how to provide affordable and low-income housing focus on designs which help to heal communities. It is a sign of positive change that H.U.D. seems to have embraced this new school of design whole-heartedly. On it's Affordable Housing Design Advisor site, one can find a plethora of design guidelines, suggestions for how to manage quality in low-income housing, links to model projects and possibilities, and other resources. It's not the cutting edge of affordability design. It is, however, a fine survey of contemporary thinking on how to build housing that matters for people without much money.