With energy efficient windows and appliances, within walking distance to transit, parks and shopping, the future residents of Helensview will be living in innovative, green homes.
And in yet another trail-blazing move, 100 percent of the development is designated as affordable housing — and it's all located in the decidedly unhipster corner of 64th and Northeast Killingsworth.
"A lot of people view green building as a luxury option," says Devin Culbertson. "It's a big challenge to try and educate people about what the true benefits actually are."
Helensview has won the coveted LEED-Neighborhood Designation (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). It's one of HOST Development's splashiest accomplishments, the culmination of over 10 years of green affordable housing development.
Along with the Eliot Tower in downtown, Helensview is only the second neighborhood development in the city to attain a green building certification, which is made not only for how each home is designed, but for how the entire development is designed.
The point, Culbertson says, is to develop homes close to the city center on previously developed land with established sewer and power lines — almost anything to avoid the kind of suburban sprawl-like development that is car-dependent and destroys farm or wild land.
The benefits of living close to the urban core is still a concept not wholly recognized by many city planners around the nation. The U.S. Green Building Council – who certifies LEED standards – just this year designed the pilot project to recognize the environmental and health-related benefits of living in planned, dense communities that are not automobile dependent.
Culbertson says he wants people to discover the benefits of living in a LEED-certified home including better indoor air quality, increased energy efficiency, and simply a more durable home
"It seems like the things most beneficial to an individual are least talked about," he said. "It's not about carbon emissions, it's about how much of your budget goes toward utilities."
He says it's also about health. HOST designed the homes using as many non-toxic materials as possible, vastly improving the indoor air quality. The use of non-toxic paint and formaldehyde-free cabinets and other furnishings are several ways HOST has made the indoor environment safer for buyers, says Culbertson.
Since last March, HOST Development has been operating a campaign to keep families in the city of Portland. In that year, the Building Blocks campaign has helped sell homes to 29 families with children. Of all the homes sold during the last year, 87 percent were with buyers under the median income and 53 percent were minorities.
At Helensview, the first of 18 homes will be nearing completion in the next couple of weeks. Once those homes are constructed, crews will begin work on the remaining 40 slated for development. All homes are marketed to families earning 70 to 100 percent of the median family income (100 percent is $67,500 for a family of four). Grants to cover closing costs are also available to help keep the cost down for many families.
Because of tightened restrictions on lending and a cooling housing market, Culbertson said selling the homes has become more difficult than in the past. And selling LEED-silver homes takes on a different approach than a typical affordable home.
"It raises a lot of lifestyle questions that aren't usual in real estate conversations," Culbertson said.
Aside from a house that is easier and cheaper to keep warm in the winter and cool in the summer, much of the amenities of living at Helensview are specifically designed to impact family lifestyles.
Supporters say walking, bike riding and transit will be more accessible, which could invariably have an affect on fitness levels; reducing indoor air pollution will result in better health; and more efficient appliances, heating and cooling –not to mention a reduced dependence on automobiles — will have less impact on a family's budget.
Another key selling point, Culbertson says, is the homes' durability. LEED homes are built to stricter standards than many suburban tract homes – for example, sealing woodworking to keep more water out. Culbertson says the homes are built to "100 year" standards. Whether they'll last 100 years is up for history to decide – as regular maintenance and other factors can affect how long a home lasts.
HOST's commitment to building greener affordable homes is getting easier all the time. Contractors R & R Energy Resources have been constructing homes for HOST for more than a decade. The company has worked on other LEED home projects, as well as infill (building homes on pre-existing lots inside the city core) developments.
Culbertson says a future of solar-powered, energy net-zero homes is not science fiction. For more information on HOST, visit www.hostdevelopment.com.