Developer: Interfaith Housing Development Corporation of Chicago Architect: Weese Langley Weese

Major Funders: Chicago Department of Housing and Economic Development; Citi Community Capital; Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco; Red Stone Equity Partners

CHICAGO—Branch of Hope Apartments almost fell victim to the financial meltdown and depressed low-income housing tax credit equity market with an approximate $8.5 million financing gap. But fortunately the 100-unit supportive-housing project, developed by nonprofit Interfaith Housing Development Corporation of Chicago, was rescued with Tax Credit Assistance Program stimulus funds, awarded by the Chicago Department of Housing and Economic Development, and was able to close in December 2009.

The $22.4 million project touts many environmentally friendly elements, including geothermal heating and cooling, to help reduce utility costs.

“We always do as much low-hanging fruit as we can, things that don't cost a lot of money," says Gladys Jordan, president of Interfaith. “But the changes in the [geothermal] technology now have allowed us to do that in an inner-city setting."

Better technology allows wells to be drilled much deeper, which means you need fewer of them, and under parking lots and foundations, benefiting a smaller site plan. The two Hope of Branch buildings are served by water source heat pumps fed through a field of 15 wells each drilled to 650 below the parking lot, resulting in gas savings for the development.

Other green features at the transit-oriented site include elevators that use 30 percent less energy than standard elevators, Energy Star appliances and light fixtures, and low-flow plumbing fixtures.

Branch of Hope, which had more than 800 applicants and was fully leased within 60 days, serves residents that earn 50 percent or less of the area median income, with 50 units reserved for formerly homeless individuals. Interfaith has partnered with Olive Branch Mission to provide onsite supportive services, including basic life skills, educational opportunities, wellness screenings, and counseling.

To provide comprehensive funding for housing and services for the residents, the project has a mix of public operating subsidies, including housing choice vouchers from the Chicago Housing Authority and Shelter Plus Care money through the city of Chicago. —Christine Serlin  


Developer: Capstone Development Group Architect: Webster Design, Inc.

Major Funders: National Equity Fund, Inc.; Clayton Homes; Sterling Bank; Illinois Housing Development Authority; Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Development Opportunity; U.S. Treasury

JERSEYVILLE, ILL.—With solar panels and wind turbines powering all of the electricity at the 32-unit single-family Lexington Farms Subdivision, residents of this low-income housing tax credit community will have zero utility costs. Developer Capstone Development Group believes it to be the first net-zero energy affordable housing community in the nation.

“The main motivation for me is the affordability factor,” says Capstone President and CEO Bill Luchini. “This is the next generation of how to create affordability through creating energy savings, thus saving the tenants and the individual homeowners."

The rents, targeted at residents earning less than 60 percent of the area median income, are estimated at $590 per month for the threebedroom homes. Residents also have a leaseto- purchase option after the 15-year compliance period. And because of the renewable energy systems, the residents' utility bill worries have been solved for the long term to help ensure the development will remain affordable.

Luchini says the development team relied on a year's worth of weather analysis from the local airport and a study of the utility needs at a similar development to determine the resources needed to accommodate the utility demand.

According to Luchini, another key element to creating the energy-efficient homes is starting with a tight building envelope. In order to achieve the tightness, a good portion of the homes was built in a controlled environment by modular home builder Clayton Homes. Three pieces for each home had to be craned in to the subdivision. The development, which is expected to earn Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design platinum certification, also includes highly efficient furnaces, water heating, air conditioning, and insulation. —Christine Serlin  


Usage to GMGC, Claudio Vigil Architects and Romero Rose
Usage to GMGC, Claudio Vigil Architects and Romero Rose

Developers: Romero Rose, LLC, and Supportive Housing Coalition of New Mexico Architect: Claudio Vigil Architects

Major Funders: Enterprise Community Investment; City of Albuquerque; New Mexico Mortgage Finance Authority

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.—For Theresa Bell, a principal of Romero Rose, LLC, the Albuquerque affiliate of the New York-based Jonathan Rose Cos., creating a green development is like a puzzle. “In our view, it's not what you add, but it's all the pieces that you choose that make up the whole."

To create the environmentally friendly first phase of Silver Gardens, Bell says the development team started with a smart growth site downtown next to a transit center. Since the site had previously been a bus depot and a repair shop, the developers faced some soil issues but found a landfill-reducing solution to flip-flop the bad soil on top with the good construction-grade soil underneath. One of the next steps was creating a high-performance building envelope, which will reduce overall energy use by a minimum of 27 percent over conventionally constructed buildings. Examples of the tight building envelope include a reflective roof, high-efficiency mechanical systems, and low-E glass windows.

The $13.3 million development, which received Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design platinum certification, also features photovoltaic panels and a wind turbine that power the common areas and Energy Star appliances.

It is the first affordable housing development in the nation to quantify and sell its carbon offsets, which it did through Enterprise's Carbon Offset Fund. The proceeds were put back into the project to increase its energy efficiency.

Co-developed by nonprofit Supportive Housing Coalition of New Mexico, the 66-unit mixed-income project was completed at the end of April 2010. Seven of the units are set aside for residents earning at or below 30 percent of the area median income (AMI) and who have experienced homelessness and have severe behavioral health disabilities, 10 units are market-rate, and the rest are for residents earning 50 percent and 60 percent of the AMI. —Christine Serlin  


Developer: USA Properties Fund, Inc. Architect: Bob Kuchman

Major Funders: Boston Capital Corp.; California Tax Credit Allocation Committee; Citi Community Capital; Freddie Mac; Sacramento Municipal Utility District; U.S. Treasury

CITRUS HEIGHTS, CALIF.—When USA Properties Fund, Inc., resyndicated the 241-unit Vintage Oaks Senior Apartments, the stars aligned to let the owner create one of the largest successful solar multifamily retrofit projects in the state.

With the property already in good shape and the state of California continuing to raise the bar on energy efficiency, USA Properties Fund President and CEO Geoffrey Brown says installing this photovoltaic system was the opportunity to better understand the cost and benefits of solar.

“We look at it as research and development," he says. “We're investing not only for the asset, but for us in general with a long-term view of better understanding the technology."

The total photovoltaic system size installed at Vintage Oaks is more than 474 kilowatts-direct current and has an estimated annual electric production of more than 695,000 kilowatt hours.

The size of the system, which is located on much of the property's building and carport rooftops, provides enough electricity production to offset nearly 100 percent of the common area and resident electric use, although Brown says that varies month to month depending on the season and the weather. He adds that many residents are not having any power bills and, in some cases, are seeing a net positive that carries forward.

The rehabilitation of the project also included significant improvements to the individual units and common areas, including efficiency upgrades to electric fixtures, HVAC systems, and water heaters; exterior painting and stair enhancements; landscape improvements; and renovations to the laundry room and clubhouse.

“It looks like a brand-new property,” Brown says.

Financing for the $25.4 million project included 4 percent low-income housing tax credit equity provided by Boston Capital; tax-exempt mortgage revenue bonds from the New Issue Bond Program (Citi Community Capital arranged the credit enhancement by Freddie Mac); a federal solar credit grant; and the Sacramento Municipal Utility District solar rebate program. —Christine Serlin