USC Price School of Public Policy

Urban Planning and Development:

USC project looks at multifamily housing through multiple lenses

June 20, 2013

By Ben Dimapindan

Liz Falletta, an assistant professor at the USC Price School of Public Policy, calls multifamily housing “important but extremely complex.”

“Professionals from very different fields are heavily involved in its production, including real estate developers, urban planners and architects,” Falletta explained, “all of whom speak different languages and have different criteria for success.”

So what may be defined as “good” from one perspective may not be for another.

To address this disconnect, Falletta developed a research project – titled By-Right/By-Design – that compares multifamily housing designs of the past and present to reveal new insights for the future of housing production in Los Angeles. The project compares real estate development models built by right, versus innovative architecture built by variance.

“There are no resources currently available that examine the same set of projects from multiple points of view,” said Falletta, who is also a lecturer at the USC School of Architecture. “This project hopes to fill that gap.”

The project was selected by the LA Forum for Architecture and Urban Design to be featured at the WUHO Gallery as part of its summer exhibition. Falletta’s work will be on display at the gallery through Aug. 4 alongside another housing exhibition How Small Is Too Small? The Micro-housing Unit in Los Angeles, curated by Takako Tajima and Katrina Stroll. Both exhibitions will move to the School of Architecture for the first two weeks of the fall semester. After that By-Right/By-Design will be partially installed at USC Price.

In addition, Falletta hopes to turn the project into a book that will serve as a reference on the design and development of multifamily housing, useful to real estate development practitioners and others in the field.

“There are many books on multifamily housing, but all primarily take one of three perspectives: housing development, housing design or planning for housing,” she said. “The goal of this work is not to merge paradigms or try to find some common ground that does not exist, but rather to tutor each field’s practitioners in the others and bring these fields into relation, so that they have the potential to produce projects that balance competing perspectives.”

More information about By-Right/By-Design will be available at