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Posts Tagged ‘affordable’

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Photo: Story Hinckley
By following strict “passive house” standards, a multifamily affordable-housing complex in  Portland, Maine, slashes heating costs.
“Sometimes we turn off the heater because we feel so good,” says one resident.

The modern tendency to look at the old ways of doing things as some sort of backward stage of human development is being proved misguided again and again. In this story, heating and cooling costs are slashed by using an approach that, in part, taps the wisdom of first century BC.

Story Hinckley writes at the Christian Science Monitor, “Cities like Portland, Maine, have realized this energy-efficient design for the affordable housing sector – for residents who can really benefit from lower heating costs.

“Passive house-certified buildings are slightly more expensive to build upfront, but the heat and electricity bills are less than half of what it typically costs to heat a similar building in Portland.

“Passive house design is more than just an architectural novelty, says the team behind Bayside Anchor. It is also a necessary tool for residents or homeowners who care about long-term affordability. As the need for affordable housing grows across the United States, proponents say cities should move beyond building low-income housing as cheaply as possible. …

“Says Greg Payne, director of the Maine Affordable Housing Coalition and development officer at Avesta Housing, the nonprofit affordable housing provider that manages Bayside Anchor, ‘We have to promise that [the building] will be affordable for 45 years.’

“Before moving to Bayside Anchor two years ago, MD Islam, his wife, and their two young children lived in a home without heat.

“ ‘We had to suffer a lot,’ says Mr. Islam, who works at a local recycling plant. ‘Now my family – everybody – is happy. We feel very comfortable.’

“A high-tech ventilation system exchanges indoor air with fresh air from outside, all while retaining the temperature of the indoor air. Thick walls (with 10 inches of insulation, in Bayside Anchor’s case) and triple-pane windows keep the building airtight so very little heat escapes. Instead of a central heating system, each apartment has a small electric baseboard heater. …

“ ‘Sometimes we turn off the heater because we feel so good,’ says Mr. Islam. …

“Property manager Lucy Cayard [says] the passive house design has helped her build a deeper connection with the residents. Since much of the building takes care of itself, the building’s staff can put their time and resources elsewhere.

“ ‘We get to focus more on people’s needs and not the building’s needs,’ says Ms. Cayard. …

“The concept of passively heating and cooling a building is probably as old as architecture itself. Writing in the first century B.C., the Roman architect and military engineer Vitruvius observed that buildings in warmer climates tended to have northern exposures, with windows facing away from the sun, while those in cooler climates had southern exposures. Modern passive house techniques trace some of their history to energy-efficiency efforts in the U.S. during the OPEC oil embargo. The principles underlying Bayside Anchor’s design are further based on techniques honed by scientists in Europe in the 1980s and 1990s. …

“But with a national shortage of 3.7 million affordable rental homes, according to a recent report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition, new building approaches need to be explored. For example, says Mr. Payne, almost 600 households are currently on the waitlist for one of Bayside Anchor’s 36 affordable units.

“ ‘We are watching it happen all across the country,’ says Jesse Thompson, the Portland-based architect behind Bayside Anchor. ‘What’s different about Maine is that it’s the affordable housing folks who are the most progressive, who are moving the most quickly.’ ”

More here.

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A while back, I showed a photo of a very skinny building near my workplace. Now I have some professional photos from the Providence Revolving Fund, and I think they convey the uniqueness of this building better than my photograph.

I love how Providence works so hard to repurpose old and interesting buildings. This one is only a piece of an old building. Once condemned, it is now lovely and functional.

Here’s what the Providence Revolving Fund had to say before the dedication in May. “The partnership of David Stem, Lori Quinn and the Providence Revolving Fund announce the completion of the formerly-condemned George C. Arnold Building (built 1923).  The Providence Redevelopment Agency (PRA) also played a pivotal role in the revitalization of this unique building.

“The mixed-use building houses two commercial units (Momo and a soon-to-be-opened [Asian] market) and three residential units.  Two of the units are rented at affordable prices.  The historic building rehabilitation was self-financed by the partnership and utilized Federal and State Historic Tax Credits and City of Providence Home Funds.”

I’ve noticed that most Providence buildings have names and people use the names, as if the buildings were pets. When you call something by its name, it strengthens your bond to it.

I’ve had the teriyaki chicken crêpe at Momo a couple times. Messy but delicious. I’m eager for the Asian market to open.

skinniest-building-ever

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In Helsinki, Finland, where young people traditionally leave home at 18 but can no longer afford urban rents, Millennials are applying by the hundreds to live with the elderly.

According to Kae Lani Kennedy at Matador Network, “Retirement homes are serving as more than a community for the elderly. These facilities are providing affordable housing for the city’s growing population of homeless millennials.

“ ‘It’s almost like a dorm, but the people aren’t young. They’re old,’ explains Emil Bostrom, a participant in ‘A Home That Fits,’ a new housing project that allows millennials to move into retirement communities. Bostrom is a 24-year-old kindergarten teacher, and though he has a steady income, it is not enough to compete with 90,000 other renters in a city that has roughly 60,000 affordable rental properties. …

“Bostrom, along with many other young adults, can enjoy discounted rent in exchange for socializing with the seniors in their community. …

“By interacting with a younger generation, the elderly involved with ‘A Home That Fits’ have the opportunity to be engaged in an active and diverse community, instead of being left behind in a forgotten generation.” More here.

And check out a post I wrote about the same phenomenon in Cleveland, here. Both initiatives sound like fun to me.

Video: Seeker Stories

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