Master of Science in Urban Planning Students Triumph in Hack-a-House Competition

Oct. 17, 2023
MSUP Students: Ash Avila, Drew Szentesy, Romina Narvaez and Mike Campbell
Hack-A-House 2023
MSUP Students

The "Affordable House Cats" team who placed during Hack-A-House 2023. From left to right: Mike Campbell, Romina Narvaez, Drew Szentesy and Ash Avila.


A team of CAPLA Master of Science in Urban Planning students, which included Ash Avila, Drew Szentesy, Romina Narvaez, and Mike Campbell, secured a victory in the policy category at Hack-A-House 2023. They were joined by Wint Thu, a PhD candidate in Economics from the University of Arizona's Eller College of Management.

Hack-A-House is an annual 24-hour “hackathon” designed to engage students in proposing innovative solutions to address the housing affordability crisis. It is based out of the University of Utah. 

"It sounded fun to engage in something academically competitive and apply our skills in a practical setting related to affordable housing," said Szentesy.

Campbell added, "The competition provided a valuable opportunity to 'stress test' my ability to translate acquired knowledge into meaningful outcomes."

Team “Affordable House Cats” proposed reforming state level property tax to allow municipalities to implement split rate land value tax, which would allow them to capture a greater value of the land itself over the improvement. Their proposed land value tax incentivizes development by discouraging holding of underutilized land. This, along with voluntary inclusionary zoning incentives, is a path to increased housing affordability. 

The group believes that their coursework at CAPLA prepared them well for success at Hack-A-House.

“They helped me analyze and choose the correct site and solutions that we had for the prompt,” Narvaez says. “I knew where I could find research and search data, and how to stay focused on our solution.”

“I was really able to apply a lot of my graphic skills, research skills and presenting skills from classes and projects in CAPLA to this competition,” Avila says.

Atticus Jaramillo advised the team and spoke of their accomplishments with great pride.

"This prestigious award demonstrates CAPLA planning students' expert understanding of the innovative solutions that are needed to equitably expand affordable housing opportunities for all,” Jaramillo, an assistant professor of planning and real estate development, says. “For CAPLA and the University of Arizona, this award shows that ongoing efforts to expand student experiences around affordable housing are already producing dividends.” 

View their winning presentation here.


Learn more about the Master of Science in Urban Planning, or explore ways you may support graduate students at CAPLA.


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