Affordable Housing is Changing With Energy Efficiency in Mind

Maximizing energy efficiency has been a driver for many buildings. A 59-unit, income-restricted net-zero building in Tiverton, R.I. might generate as much energy on site as it uses.

It’s no secret that affordable housing is in short supply. Both the single-family and multifamily market struggle to meet the need. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, not a single one of the 50 states has an adequate supply of rental housing that’s affordable and available to extremely low-income households—those who earn 20% to 60% of their area medium income. The Coalition pegs the shortage at 7 million homes.

When buildings become available for lease or sale, they fill quickly, and long waitlists result.

An example: At La Peninsula in New York’s Bronx borough, Body Lawson Associates, Architects & Planners, worked with WXY Architecture + Urban Design on a mixed-use, 100% affordable campus where 75,000 people applied for 183 units in the first phase.

Still, multifamily developers and champions face myriad issues: construction, labor, and land costs; lengthy planning and building review processes; restrictive zoning codes that favor single-family residences; and less available funding through tax credits, subsidies and grants, says architect Steven Lee, senior associate with Page & Turnbull, an architecture, design, planning and preservation firm. Neighborhood resistance to development also remains a deterrent as well.

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