Green and affordable

It’s often assumed that only folks with deep pockets can afford to build an environmentally friendly, energy-efficient home. But an effort led by Mountain Housing Opportunities is deconstructing that idea.

The Asheville-based nonprofit held a press conference in the West End/Clingman Avenue neighborhood on Aug. 28 to showcase the progress being made on Prospect Terrace, a new housing development using “green” building techniques to produce affordable housing in the city. Working in conjunction with Carolina Cornerstone Construction, Mathews Architecture and Civil Design Concepts, MHO is developing 17 houses and condominiums that will be certified under the North Carolina State Energy Office’s newly developed N.C. HealthyBuilt Homes Program. The program is designed to encourage green building in the state by certifying residential builders who utilize sustainable, environmentally sensitive building practices. Based on initial inspections, Prospect Terrace will be the first development to earn that certification, reports MHO Home Ownership Manager Mike Vance.

The homes will be built using such energy-saving building components as higher-quality windows, longer-lasting roofs and finger-jointed lumber, Scott Crockett of Carolina Cornerstones Construction told Xpress. Some units will also feature solar water heaters, he noted. Heating and cooling costs for the two- and three-bedroom units are expected to be $21 and $29 per month, respectively, said Vance.

Perhaps most importantly, however, most of the two- and three-bedroom homes and condos at Prospect Terrace will be affordable — 10 of the homes will be available to families whose income falls below 80 percent of the median income for the area. The units will range in price from $95,000 to $150,000; with subsidies available for eligible buyers, housing payments could start at around $600 per month.

At the press conference, Boone Guyton, a founding member of the Western North Carolina Green Building Council (another partner in the project) proclaimed, “Nothing promotes green building like having green buildings built.” And as he gestured toward the homes already under construction, Larry Shirley of the State Energy Office said officials in Raleigh feel “the best place to initiate green building is right in Western North Carolina — where there is a passion for it!”

Shirley also announced that his department will be opening an office in Asheville next year, eliciting cheers from the crowd. Feeding off the energy, Shirley spoke with some passion of his own: “We have to change the way we build houses and government buildings in this state! … So much of our current construction practices are environmentally destructive and wasteful — it does not have to be this way!”

MHO Executive Director Scott Dedman told Xpress that affordable green homes will help families with limited incomes. “Utility bills are one of the larger costs working families have to bear. We hope to prove that [green building] makes sense economically. This is a test, a pilot program to assess the monthly savings compared to similar homes that don’t have energy-saving features.”

For Dedman, however, other project benefits are already clear: “We’re bringing families back to this neighborhood. Neighbors are meeting each other, black and white, and working to revitalize this community. It’s revitalizing this place.”

[For more information, contact Mike Vance at 245-4030.]

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