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WASHINGTON, D.C. -- When Catholic Charities developed the 23-unit Stoney Pine affordable housing complex for the people with developmental disabilities in Sunnyvale, in 2001, architects David Baker and Partners included a "home theater" in the project.

A great door, which allows community activities to expand into a courtyard, transforms into a large movie screen so residents can view films during balmy California evenings.

Indianapolis, IN's Partners in Housing Development Corporation restored 7,500 square feet of a landmark building's long-abandoned retail space in the city's 10th Street Corridor, but not just for retail.

The 2002 Mozingo Place adaptive reuse project not only saved the building, but transformed the structure into a vibrant, multi-use home for businesses and extremely low-income households.

The Ida Barbour public housing project of barracks-style structures in Portsmouth, VA is being transformed into Westbury, a Portsmouth Housing and Redevelopment Authority mixed-income housing complex of modern single-family homes, townhouses and apartments with historic and community connections.

In the architectural styles of the city's historic homes, including Craftsman, Victorian, and Colonial Revival designs, the project includes residential blocks that retrace the traditional urban footprint of tree-lined streets and service alleys and each block contains a combination of rental and home ownership units for a variety of income levels.

Better living through better design benefits not only those who live in the growing number of neo-traditional-style affordable housing complexes, but it also benefits the surrounding community of higher-income households.

"Affordable Housing: Designing An American Asset," an exhibit at the National Building Museum (401 F Street NW, Washington, DC, (202) 272-2448), doesn't just imitate life, but provides living examples of what affordable housing can be and do for a community.

Experts say there's still much ground to cover with affordable housing, but developments like the 18 featured in the exhibit are helping communities turn heads to and not their backs on affordable housing.

A National Association of Realtors poll of 1,000 adults in the 25 largest metropolitan areas found 76 percent of respondents were supportive of affordable housing in their community, and 63 percent supported it next door.

Neighborhood opposition has long been considered a barrier to cheaper housing, but that's changing.

Not only can affordable home design influence increased property values, it can also help revitalize a neighborhood, build civic pride and improve the quality of life for all. Many of the projects come with upgraded parks and schools, vital businesses that bring jobs to the community and more walkable, open community spaces.

The affordable housing communities on display through August 8, all enjoy reduced commuter traffic; lower police and social services costs; and the mingling of individuals and families from many different backgrounds in a richer more diverse social experience, the museum boasts, according to the display.

The exhibit also reveals how affordable housing helps promulgate innovations in building materials, energy-efficiency and sustainable, environmentally responsible design -- all to contribute to lower building costs and lower long-term maintenance and up keep costs, benefits that "trickle up" to mass-produced housing.

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