NewsletterSustainable Design

Affordable Housing Can Be Energy Efficient

Sustainability does not have to be a luxury and costs so much money in order to implement it within homes or residential buildings. Sustainable living spaces do not have to carry a seven-figure asking price and can be accessible to those new-home owners. Hillcrest Village, an affordable housing development in Northfield, Minnesota, is virtually indistinguishable from market-rate housing.

According to Energy News Network, the notion that affordable housing requires shoddy construction and materials — never mind omitting any consideration of energy efficiency — has increasingly come under challenge by practitioners like Ben Bentley. Bentley is the executive director and CEO of Knoxville’s Community Development Corporation in Tennessee, which oversees a number of affordable housing properties.

“I think housing needs to be built to a high standard regardless of whether it’s affordable or market rate,” Bentley said.

To me, it’s really important that it’s rather indistinguishable,” Ben Bentley, Executive director and CEO of Knoxville’s Community Development Corporation

Bentley said that poorly built public housing in the past “created sort of a stigmatization of certain areas.”

“As we’re building new things moving forward, and as we’re partnering on innovative technologies like that with [the Department of Energy], we’re really considering how we build to a standard where someone that drives by this neighborhood is not going to say, ‘Well, that’s where low-income families live,’” Bentley said. “They’re going to think, ‘Wow, that’s just a great place to live. That’s a great neighborhood.’ That’s what we’re trying to do.”

Likewise, in Northfield, both sustainability and aesthetic appeal were integral. Making the units as indistinguishable from market-rate housing as possible was an essential consideration, according to Nowak.

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