A guide to green energy savings for low-income Californians

The very existence of man-made climate change, much less the need for elected officials to do something about it, remains up for debate in some political quarters. Not in California. California regularly promotes climate-friendly programs to provide more low-emission cars and charging stations, curb fossil fuel use and boost energy sources such as solar panels. A cap-and-trade pollution permitting system is reaping billions of dollars. A new law compels utility companies to glean half their electricity from renewable sources by 2030. With the overarching goal of limiting emissions firmly in place, policymakers have turned their attention to spreading the wealth. Elected officials are increasingly working to ensure the benefits don’t just accrue to wealthy coast-dwellers with a Tesla in the garage and solar panels on the roof, passing laws and crafting programs tailored specifically to low-income Californians. “Tackling climate change and dirty air requires that all low-income families also benefit,” Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, said earlier this year. “All Californians deserve clean air.” Billions of dollars worth of incentives, support and rebates have already flowed to poorer Californians. That stream looks likely to widen thanks to a requirement that struggling communities get a quarter of the money from California’s cap-and-trade system, which has reaped a huge and growing pot of money by selling carbon emissions permits to business. Here’s a look at what’s available. 1. Solar for homeowners What does it do? The Single-Family Affordable Solar Homes program provides rebates to install solar panels for low-income homeowners, the idea being that the electricity-generating technology will lower carbon footprints and reduce energy bills. It’s funded...

City approves unique senior afforable housing project

A three-storey building with 40 new affordable housing apartments for seniors is proposed in a $6.7-million joint city-county development on the grounds of John Noble Home.  The building would be located on one acre of vacant land at the northeast corner of the property near Mount Pleasant Street and Bell Lane. It would contain 22 one-bedroom apartments, three one-bedroom accessible units, 14 two-bedroom units and a one-bedroom apartment for a keyholder. “Fifty-three per cent of applicants are waiting for a one-bedroom unit and that represents over 600 people. Typically, a one-bedroom wait is up to nine years,” said Mira Fearnside, manager of housing operations, during a presentation to city council on Monday. About 28 per cent of applicants, the next largest segment, are waiting for a two-bedroom apartment. Of the one-bedroom apartments, 12 would be rent-gear-to-income. Ten would be at the affordable market price of $625 a month rent. The remaining four would be market rent at $714. It would be the first local municipal housing with all three rent structures under one roof. There would be no rent-geared-to-income two-bedroom units. Five would be at the affordable market rate of $692 and nine at the market price of $833. It’s expected that the rents would rise by the time construction is completed. The one-bedroom apartments are 514 square feet. The two-bedroom and accessible units are 716 square feet. The building façade and materials would match John Noble Home. “It’s a beautiful, walkable community. There is great community connectivity and it’s close to all amenities,” said Maryellen MacLellan, the city’ director of housing. There are green space and trails nearby,...
These Affordable Apartments Show How We Can Rethink Home Design To Fight Rising Rents

These Affordable Apartments Show How We Can Rethink Home Design To Fight Rising Rents

Crazy thought: What if affordable housing also looked nice? Modular micro-sized apartments in cities like Tokyo and Seattle are getting both more popular and extremely tiny, as residents struggle to afford these cities’ sky high rents. New Yorkers, who have always taken pride in their small living spaces, were starting to get jealous. No longer. This summer, New York City has jumped onto the bandwagon. Its first micro apartment building, consisting of 55 prefab units that are all well below the city’s regulated minimum apartment size of 400 square feet, is up and running on Manhattan’s east side. Cornell Tech Residences – Handel ArchitectsHandel Architects To get it built, city officials waived regulations. They did so in order to experiment with new designs that create more affordable housing in a city that sorely needs it. Today, more than half of city households devote more than 30% of their income to rent, which is the threshold for affordability as defined by federal guidelines. A family would need to make a minimum income of $114,000 a year to afford the median home price citywide (and a lot more in Manhattan). As a remedy, Mayor Bill de Blasio has pledged to build or preserve 200,000 affordable apartments over 10 years. That mandate has architects and engineers thinking about their role in meeting affordability challenges. Famous architects of the past, such as Frank Lloyd Wright and Buckminster Fuller, used to understand that design played a big role in affordable living. But that’s been lost in the debate, says Marc Norman, the curator of a new exhibit by New York’s Center for Architecture called...
Renovation of downtown Pythian building focuses on middle-income renters

Renovation of downtown Pythian building focuses on middle-income renters

Luxury is a moniker applied to the hundreds of apartments opening in renovated downtown New Orleans office buildings by hungry developers. For most locals, the word equates to expensive. A team led by Green Coast Enterprises, the nonprofit Crescent City Community Land Trust and ERG Enterprises is attempting to buck that trend and bring a new kind of affordable housing to the rapidly changing downtown neighborhood. The developers this week began a $38 million renovation of the historic Pythian building at 234 Loyola Ave. into apartments targeted at middle-income workers in the Central Business District who don’t qualify for discounted housing and can’t pay full-market rates. Using a community land trust model, the apartments must stay affordable for at least the next 50 years, and they can stay at that level for 99 years. The hope is to carve out some ground for economic and racial diversity as private developers gobble up the remaining vacant buildings amid a $3 billion real estate boom downtown. “There’s a story to be told here about who we are, and we think that is different than the next high-end condo project that’s going to be built down the street,” said Will Bradshaw, co-founder and president of Green Coast Enterprises. Developers say the renovation will harken to the century-old, eight-story building’s rich history as a hub for African-American businesses and a gathering place for people of different races and classes for jazz and theater. The Pythian was constructed in 1908 under the direction of S.W. Green, a prominent businessman and leader of the Grand Lodge Colored Knights of Pythias, a black fraternal organization. Historic high-rise building being...
Long-planned Kakaako affordable rental project goes after final piece of funding

Long-planned Kakaako affordable rental project goes after final piece of funding

The developer of a long-planned $39 million affordable rental housing project for artists, planned for the Honolulu neighborhood of Kakaako, is looking to get its final piece of funding from the city’s affordable housing fund, a project consultant told PBN this week. But before that happens, the Hawaii Community Development Authority, which approved the 84-unit Ola Ka Ilima Artspace and Lofts project on Waimanu Street, needs to give the green light to make the project affordable in perpetuity, instead of for 65 years, the current lease for the development.   The project is planned for 1025 Waimanu St., between a Lexus auto service center and the Kakaako Business Center. If the HCDA, which regulates development in Kakako, approves changing the project’s affordability requirements, then the Minnesota developer can respond to the city’s request for proposals for $4.4 million in funding for affordable projects in the area. “The fund requires the project needing to be affordable in perpetuity,” Abbey Seth Mayer, president of Honolulu-based Mayer & Associates Consulting Inc., and project consultant, told PBN. “If everything falls into place, [the developer of the project] would meet the restriction of the affordable housing fund and be awarded the RFP, which would represent the last piece of funding. We would be able to move forward and start construction.” The city’s RFP is expected to come out soon. If this plan doesn’t work, then Artspace, the developer, would have to find funding from other sources, including public, private, donors or likely a combination of sources. Artspace has already come up with a majority of the funding, and hopes to start construction on the...
Radical Minneapolis Development Does Green Design Right

Radical Minneapolis Development Does Green Design Right

Sustainable living offers plenty of earth friendly benefits, but the perceived price of living your values often makes it seem financially unsustainable. Minneapolis nonprofits Aeon and Hope Community are challenging that zero-sum assumption—that homes can be affordable or earth-conscious—with a new, 150,000-square-foot, 90-unit mixed-income apartment building called The Rose. Opening today at Franklin and Portland avenues, the $36 million complex was constructed with a relatively unprecedented fidelity to green principles, arguing that building for the long-term, with a focus on better materials, conservation and energy performance, can be beneficial and practical at any budget. “It is sound business to develop properties that reduce energy use, can stay affordable for residents, and function optimally over time,” says Alan Arthur, Aeon’s CEO, in a statement. “The Rose is a learning lab for that — not only for Aeon, but for others who develop high-quality affordable housing.” A rendering of the community garden at The Rose. On the surface, The Rose, one of a handful of Aeon projects in the surrounding South Minneapolis neighborhood, resembles a typical modern urban development, boasting granite countertops and stainless steel appliances in every unit as well as a community garden and yoga studio. The upscale design gels with the mission of Aeon, a nearly three-decade-old non-profit housing developer that aims to provide a more accommodating and equitable vision of community. Half the units are set aside as affordable housing, starting at $636 per month for a one-bedroom. But architect Paul Mellblom (Meyer, Scherer & Rockcastle) and co-designer Rhys MacPherson aspired to go beyond amenities and meet the strict Living Building Challenge, a multifaceted green building code...