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Co-Creating Boston's Future-Decker

We are inviting participants to help develop new models of multifamily housing by drawing inspiration from the iconic triple-decker.

About the competition

competition roadmap

Co-Creating the Future-Decker is a competition where individuals and teams are invited to ideate and propose new housing that can be built on small sites.






On July 30th, 2021 the first phase of the competition, Request for Ideas (RFI), closed with over 20 responses. View the innovative ideas shared!

The Housing Innovation Lab (Housing iLab) and the Boston Society for Architecture (BSA) are hosting a two-phase competition where participants can address how housing at this middle-scale can help bridge a gap between small- and large-scale developments in the city.

In 2016 the BSA and the Housing iLab hosted the first Housing Innovation Competition where development teams were asked to show that small, affordable family units are feasible. Now, we are taking on a new development challenge by learning from the history of the three-decker.

How we got here

By first taking a look at the iconic triple-decker, the Housing iLab in partnership with the BSA began a collaborative research effort. Our goal was to better understand the multifamily housing landscape in Boston.

Mostly built between the 1880s and 1930s, the triple- or three-decker provided affordable opportunities for many immigrant, working and middle class families in Boston. Today, these three wooden stacked apartment buildings are among the most expensive and desired housing in the city.

In 2020, the BSA and the Housing iLab led a collaborative exploration with residents, students, architects, artists, and many others to learn about the role that triple-deckers have played in the lives of Boston residents. In addition to hearing about residents’ experiences with triple-deckers in Boston, we  asked all who participated to begin to imagine the future of this building type.

You can view these showcased findings at the BSA’s Imaginations of Home exhibition, now live at BSA Space. 


Our hypothesis? By inviting a variety of participants to submit innovative ideas and proposals, we can collectively introduce new replicable housing models in Boston.

We know that key barriers, such as construction costs and land costs, slow down or even prevent the creation of middle-scale housing, typically ranging from 3-15 units. Recent data shows that there is growing demand for multifamily housing. But, the cost is far too high for renters and homeowners to be able to afford. We want to see if there is an interest to help build smaller and middle scale housing, such as the Future-Decker, across a variety of sites in the City.


This year’s competition will be divided into two key phases:


Individuals and teams of all backgrounds are invited to share their ideas for housing types that would fit within the context of Boston’s neighborhoods.


Established development teams submit proposals that can be replicated across the final chosen sites. The winning team will have the opportunity to build a pilot project on yet-to-be-selected City owned sites.  





Summer 2021

SHOWCASE IDEAS Predicted Date:

Fall 2021-Summer 2022


To Be Determined

PILOT Predicted Date:

To Be Determined

Phase I: Request for Ideas (RFI)

This Request for Ideas is an open call to anyone interested in seeing how new but familiar types of homes might respond to Boston’s current and future housing needs.

This process is a continuation of the triple-decker exploration and provides a chance for all to help to shape the future of housing development across 13 small sites. We have showcased the RFI submissions in this virtual story map. Read the responses and learn more about the shared themes and barriers highlighted throughout.

Each unique response to this Request for Ideas highlighted the importance of a collective process of imagination when it comes to the creation of housing in Boston’s neighborhoods. Participants proved that in order to address a complex housing-development challenge, many communities must come together to propose alternative solutions at each step of the process. In the coming months, the BSA and iLab will continue to engage with residents, architects, students, RFI participants, and all who are interested to help shape the second phase of the competition.

Phase II: Request for Proposals (RFP)

Check back for updates! In the meantime, if you’d like to speak with someone from the team about this initiative please email us at

Get involved

Join our mailing list to stay up to date on the Future-Decker competition.

Frequently asked questions

Common questions

An RFI is a document that solicits ideas of participants of all backgrounds. The goal is to inform the City’s approach for overcoming housing development challenges. It offers an opportunity to reimagine how we conduct community engagement by first inviting:

  • residents
  • architects
  • developers, and
  • many others to help shape a housing development process.

There is not a winner for the RFI. But, participants are given an opportunity to begin to form development teams that can enter the second phase of the competition.

A Request for Ideas is a way for us to better shape the guidelines that would eventually be included in a Request for Proposals for a yet-to-be-selected City-owned site. The RFI submissions will be showcased both virtually and throughout the City. This will give us the opportunity to receive feedback on submissions. Our goal is to better align the RFP with both the City’s goals and community aspirations.

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