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Quick takes: 5 cities, 5 intriguing affordable housing strategies

Submitted by compassionatec… on April 12, 2017

We continue our Quick Takes series with a look at some intriguing initiatives communities are undertaking to bolster their affordable housing stock and/or make existing housing more affordable. What’s notable in some of these examples is that they may lead to tangible benefits beyond affordable housing itself. – Liz Enbysk

Portland residents say yes to renting out tiny homes in their backyards
Call it IMBYism in Portland, Oregon, where residents are saying yes to housing homeless families in their backyards. The $300,000 pilot project comes from the Multnomah County Idea Lab. It will start in June with four 200-square-foot tiny homes that the homeowners who participate get for free and will eventually get to keep. But first they must agree to rent them to homeless families for five years. So far, according to the Oregonian, more than 700 homeowners have said they want to participate. If the pilot goes well, another 300 tiny homes would be added – nowhere near enough to solve the city’s affordable housing shortage but enough to make a difference in the lives of 300 families.

Enel subsidiary pioneers lithium-ion battery-based microgrid in NYC complex
Construction has begun on a groundbreaking renewable-energy-plus-storage microgrid at the 625-unit Marcus Garvey Village, a mixed-income apartment complex in Brooklyn. The project by Demand Energy, a subsidiary of Enel Green Power NA, lists several firsts:

  • First lithium-ion batteries approved for use in a behind-the-meter multi-family building application
  • First renewable-energy-plus-storage microgrid in an affordable housing development
  • First microgrid deployed under Con Edison's Brooklyn-Queens Demand Management Program

The system will reduce the property's power consumption, provide resiliency during an outage and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The housing development will also self-consume any energy it generates, without exporting to the grid.

Hackney Council plans its own home-building company
In the London borough of Hackney, council members are moving to set up their own housing construction company to help mitigate the borough’s affordable housing crisis. The Hackney Citizen suggests that legal restrictions make it hard for local authorities to borrow money to build new flats, but creating a company would get around the problem. “My vision is a Hackney that works for everyone,” said Mayor Philip Glanville. “That’s why we’re developing a new housing strategy that helps more families have the homes they deserve.”

First Nations housing in Yale, BC uses passive technology to keep costs down
New modular homes for residents of Yale First Nation near Hope, BC are an effort to clean up the community’s aging and sometimes dilapidated housing stock. CBC News reports that new family units were built using passive technology, which means they have thicker walls, three layers of insulation and face the sun. Heat from the stove and dryer is recycled to heat the rest of the home. The efficiency is expected to cut heating bills by up to 80%; the First Nation also anticipates additional savings in maintenance costs since the units are expected to last longer in BC’s typically wet weather.

Affordable housing for artists could revitalize West Philly neighborhoods
A 20-unit affordable housing project for artists replaced a vacant lot in a West Philadelphia neighborhood. The development set up by the People’s Emergency Center (PEC) and subsidized by the Philadelphia Housing Authority is the first in the city targeting artists. Stephanie Wall, PEC’s deputy director of community economic and real estate development, told Metro US the hope is the creativity of artists will be contagious and rejuvenate what is described as a sometimes-neglected section of West Philly as well as bolster the city’s arts scene.  

More from our Quick Takes series:
5 cities, 5 diverse approaches to reducing hunger
5 cities, 5 assorted initiatives helping the homeless