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Council urged to make low-cost homes efficient

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In Village Council’s first discussion of a draft agreement for a proposed affordable housing project at its Jan. 3 meeting, Council was urged to require from the developer tighter energy efficient building practices than currently specified, both to ensure low longterm utility costs and to create a model of energy-efficient affordable homes.

“We should stipulate more rigorous environmental standards” in the project’s memorandum of understanding, or MOU, according to Council member Rick Walkey, who said that “showing energy efficient homes at the gateway of the village is a win-win” situation for the Village.

No decisions were made Monday night, and Council members decided to continue the discussion at a later date before voting on the MOU. If the MOU is approved, Council will then choose a developer for the project.

The proposed project is a group of four affordable homes to be constructed on Village-owned land on Cemetery Street, using a land trust model to keep the homes permanently affordable. Council members were responding to the first draft of the MOU, which describes terms and conditions for the project. Council voted Nov. 1 to develop the MOU in collaboration with local land trust organization Home, Inc., as the first step toward moving ahead with the project.

The overall purpose of the project is to enable more young families to move to Yellow Springs, according to Council President Judith Hempfling, who proposed the project with Lori Askeland.

“The public good of this project is using the land trust model to make the homes permanently affordable, with a focus on young families with children,” Hempfling said, stating that the Village will also benefit from the new homes’ property taxes, and income from the sale of the land.

Monday night’s discussion on the project’s energy standards was sparked by the MOU’s current statement that the four homes will have “as many energy saving and environmentally friendly features as economically feasible.”

But that requirement is too vague, according to Pat Murphy of the Arthur Morgan Institute for Community Solutions, and might lead a developer to abandon energy-efficient building techniques in the name of immediate cost-cutting.

“If we’re building a home today, we have to consider the utility bills in 50 years,” he said.

Beyond the cost savings of energy efficiency, Yellow Springs is becoming a leader in the construction of the German passive house, which is constructed to reduce energy use by 80 percent, according to Murphy. One passive house has already been constructed in Yellow Springs, several more are in the works, and a local engineer, Eric Lang, has been certified as a passive house designer, according to Murphy, who encouraged Council to take advantage of this expertise in constructing the affordable homes.

The group that developed the draft MOU included Home, Inc. Executive Director Marianne MacQueen, consultant Fritz Leighty, Greene Metropolitan Housing Director Susan Stiles, Village Council President Judith Hempfling and Village Manager Mark Cundiff.

The draft MOU specifies that the Village would sell the land to the developer at 50 percent of its appraised value, and pay for the cost of appraisal. The Village would also waive up to $500 of zoning and tap fees per unit for each home, and would provide support with Village staff in dealing with zoning, site plans and other predevelopment issues.

The Village will solicit developers with a RFP, although the developer chosen needs to be able to use the land trust model. Currently, Home, Inc. is the only land trust organization locally.

The developer would construct four three-bedroom homes, in sizes ranging from 1,200 to 1,500 square feet. The homes would be affordable to families making from 50 to 80 percent of the Area Median Income, and would remain permanently affordable using a land trust model. While the developer would design the homes and configuration of homes, Council would give final approval.

While lot frontage of the homes has not been determined, sites with 50-foot, 60-foot or 70-foot frontage are being considered, according to MacQueen.

Two villagers on Monday night raised concerns about the project, with Becky Campbell questioning the cost to the Village of staff time used, and Paul Abendroth urging Council to consider unexpected costs.

Issues that have arisen during the MOU discussions include the need to rezone the land to Residence B from its current zoning of Conservation, according to Cundiff. Also, the Miami Township Fire Department has requested that a new fire hydrant be constructed in the neighborhood, at a cost of about $61,000. While the hydrant is primarily for adequate protection for the new homes, it will also enhance protection for existing homes, Cundiff said.

Overall, according to John Booth, the project is “a good start to try to make the village more welcoming,” especially for young people with families. Booth identified creating more affordable housing as a way “to get back the diversity we once had and to make the village more sustainable.”

Other items of Council’s Jan. 3 business will be covered in next week’s News.

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One Response to “Council urged to make low-cost homes efficient”

  1. Terry Fox says:

    This is AWESOME!!! I’d love to get involved. Keep up the good work.
    Thank you,

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