In Sonoma, Calif., a city known for its wine, Valley Oaks Homes is providing housing for many families who work in the area but couldn’t afford to live there. The 43 units, developed by nonprofit Satellite Affordable Housing Associates (SAHA), are targeted to families earning 30 percent to 60 percent of the area median income.
The nonprofit took the residents’ utility bills into consideration when designing the development, which is on track to receive LEED Platinum certification.
With Sonoma’s hot, sunny days, solar photovoltaic and thermal panels provide energy for common-area lighting and hot water. Virtual net metering allows excess energy generated by the photovoltaic system to be passed on to residents to defray a portion of their utility bills. Whole-house fans also were installed in every unit, eliminating the need for air-conditioning.
“Every dollar they can save a month, they can spend on other important things,” says Eve Stewart, director of housing development for SAHA.
The developer also pushed the envelope with water conservation by installing a graywater system that uses sink water from the community building and laundry room for irrigation.
With the property serving some low-income agriculture workers employed in the region’s wine industry, there’s a focus on green space, with raised planting beds, drought-tolerant vegetation, and fruit trees.
The city of Sonoma was vital to the $17.7 million project, which was completed in August 2013: It donated the land, provided a loan, and contributed Community Development Block Grants and HOME funds. Other financing included low-income housing tax credit equity from Enterprise Community Investment and construction and permanent financing from Silicon Valley Bank.