CHARLOTTE, N.C.—The Affordable Housing Group of North Carolina, a nonprofit developer based in Charlotte, is taking affordable housing to a new level in the state.

Two of its recent seniors developments— Cherry Gardens in Charlotte and Curlin Commons in Mooresville, N.C.—have integrated green and energyeffi cient elements to improve the quality of life of residents. Cherry Gardens is expected to receive Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Homes Silver certification this fall, the first affordable multifamily project in the state to be so honored. And Curlin Commons has received EarthCraft certification, also a first for an affordable multifamily project in North Carolina.

“If you're subsidized by the government, you should be able to provide affordable housing and make it as sustainable as possible,” says Paul Woollard, executive director of The Affordable Housing Group.

Both developments focus on providing seniors on fixed incomes with an affordable place to call home, along with improved indoor air quality and lower utility bills.

“We don't have flashy green, but we have very practical items that make a difference,” Woollard says.

The 42-unit Cherry Gardens was a community effort. The Affordable Housing Group teamed with Living Gardens, an organization managed by a local businessman who has been working with the members of the community to revitalize Charlotte's gentrifying Cherry neighborhood. The revitalization efforts were initiated by StoneHunt, which had obtained site control of a large portion of the community. StoneHunt donated the land for Cherry Gardens to provide a relocation resource for longtime seniors in the neighborhood who could be displaced by the surrounding revitalization efforts.

Cherry Gardens includes upgraded insulation, energy-efficient windows, Energy Star appliances and lighting, low-flow plumbing fixtures, drought-tolerant native plants, and low-VOC paints and carpets.

Residents earning between 24 percent and 60 percent of the area median income (AMI) started moving in after the building's April 28 dedication. Developers say they have received anecdotal evidence from the residents about lower utility bills. A couple of occupants who used to pay more than $100 per month in utilities at their former residences say their utility bills are now closer to $40 a month.

Financing for the $5.7 million development included funds from the City of Charlotte Housing Trust Fund and state and federal lowincome housing tax credits (LIHTCs). RBC Capital Markets provided the tax credit equity.

The Affordable Housing Group partnered with the Catholic Diocese of Charlotte Housing Corp. on the suburban Curlin Commons. The 40 units are targeted to seniors earning between 30 percent and 60 percent of the AMI.

Curlin Commons, which was completed in April, features many of the same green elements as Cherry Gardens, including Energy Star appliances. The developers also emphasized the outdoor experience for residents. They saved a large number of the older trees on the site and added new trees as well as two interior courtyards.

The $6.1 million development was financed with state and federal LIHTCs, with equity also provided by RBC; a Federal Home Loan Bank of Atlanta Affordable Housing Program grant; a Home Depot Foundation grant; and a permanent loan from the Catholic Diocese of Charlotte.

Woollard says the two developments aided the team's learning curve on building green. He says he hopes to take the lessons learned on the two projects, as well as the data on operations and savings, to work with the state's regulatory side to make the process of going green easier for other developers. The Affordable Housing Group also plans to provide technical assistance for other nonprofits looking to do their first green developments.