Developers: First Community Housing and The John Stewart Co.
Architect: Rob Quigley Architects, FAIA
Major Funders:
U.S. Bank; Enterprise Community Investment; California Department of Housing and Community Development; City of San Jose; Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco

SAN JOSE, CALIF.— Once the site of a sorority house near San Jose State University and then an aging residential hotel, Casa Feliz Studios has been reborn as a contemporary and sustainable development serving extremely low-income residents.

The 59 studios serve residents with income levels ranging from 20 percent to 35 percent of the area median income, with 21 units set aside for residents with developmental disabilities.

The project’s strong green focus was recognized with a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design New Construction 2.2 gold rating, the third New Construction gold designation for nonprofit First Community Housing, which co-developed the project with The John Stewart Co.

One of the main green features is the living roofs, a first in San Jose. According to First Community Housing Executive Director Jeff Oberdorfer, the city requested an upgrade to the insufficient storm drain system, but for the same costs, the developers were able to add the living roofs, which retain storm water, provide habitat for wildlife, increase roof insulation, provide a longer roof life, and reduce ambient heat reflected from the roof to increase the efficiency of the photovoltaic system that helps to power the common areas.

Casa Feliz also features natural lighting and ventilation, toxic-free building materials, low-flow plumbing fixtures, energy-efficient appliances, and more than 90 percent construction waste recycling.

Oberdorfer adds that the overall lack of toxic materials on the interior has had a tremendous impact on the health of the special-needs residents. First Community Housing also provides free annual transit passes to the residents and a green resident manual.

The $16.1 million project included tax-exempt bond financing from U.S. Bank, 4 percent tax credit equity from Enterprise Community Investment, and additional financing from the California Department of Housing and Community Development Multifamily Housing Program and the city of San Jose.


Developer: Luckenbill-Drayton & Associates, LLC
Carleton Hart Architecture
Major Funders: Homestead Capital; Wells Fargo Bank; Oregon Housing and Community Services; Network for Affordable Housing

KLAMATH FALLS, ORE.— When residents start moving into the Iris Glen Townhomes in September, they’re possibly going to see savings between $75 and $120 per month on their utility bills, depending on the unit size.

Dee Luckenbill, managing member of developer Luckenbill-Drayton & Associates, LLC, says much of Klamath Falls is served by geothermal wells, and Iris Glen Townhomes won’t be an exception.

“The opportunity to provide heat and hot water for these units without charges was pretty exciting to us,” she says.

The development will utilize three existing geothermal wells located on the property. The system uses heat exchange from the wells to domestic hot water tanks, which feed water- source radiant heating loops in the concrete floor slabs on the ground floors and in-wall heaters on the upper floors of the units. The domestic hot water tanks can also burn natural gas as a backup fuel source in case of temporary failure or system overload.

Other sustainable elements include light-colored roofing, low-flow water fixtures, Energy Star appliances and lighting, high-performance windows, proper cross-ventilation, drought-tolerant landscaping, and the use of low or no-VOC paints.

To encourage biking and public transportation, the developer will provide bicycles on demand for use by the residents and their children at no cost as well as transportation subsidies or scholarships for residents who need financial help getting to and from jobs or employment training.

The development is comprised of 12 one-bedroom, 20 two-bedroom, and four three-bedroom units, with 41 percent of the units set aside for residents earning less than 50 percent of the area median income (AMI) and 59 percent for residents earning less than 60 percent of AMI.

Multiple funding sources were used for the $7.1 million development, including housing trust funds, low-income weatherization funds, and general housing account funds through Oregon Housing and Community Services; low-income housing tax credit equity provided by Homestead Capital; a permanent loan from the Network for Affordable Housing; and a construction loan from Wells Fargo Bank.


Developer: Self-Help Enterprises
Architect: Mogavero & Notestine Associates
Major Funders:
Union Bank; U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development; Kern County

LAMONT, CALIF.— In this unincorporated farmworker community in Kern County in the San Joaquin Valley, Self-Help Enterprises’ Rancho Lindo development is helping to meet the dire need for quality low-income housing while demonstrating that green building can be done in the most rural locations.

“The demand far exceeds what we can provide,” says Doug Pingel, multifamily housing program director for the Visalia, Calif.-based nonprofi t. “This project helps that need somewhat, but it’s overwhelming.”

Not only did Self-Help Enterprises create a development that provides 43 two-, three-, and four-bedroom units for residents earning between 35 percent and 55 percent of the area median income, but it invested in energy-efficient features to provide utility savings for the residents and to allow for long-term savings on the owner side to help keep rents affordable.

Rancho Lindo, which exceeded California Title 24 energy standards by 37 percent and achieved a GreenPoint Rated certification through Build It Green, features cool tile roofs to minimize solar heat gain, low-e windows, tankless hot water heaters, Energy Star air-conditioning units and appliances, ultra low-flow water fixtures, and native landscaping. A photovoltaic system powers the community center and communal on-site lighting.

Housing Specialist Esmeralda Santos says one resident commented that he’s saving $50 in utilities a month from his previous home.

Completed in July 2009, Rancho Lindo has a strong focus on services for families, including an after-school program that is offered two hours a day for the children and free employment and educational services once a month for the adults.

The $12.9 million development was financed with HOME funds from Kern County, U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development Sec. 514 loan and Sec. 521 rental assistance, and low-income housing tax credit equity from Union Bank.

“Our goal is to do more than just provide housing,” Pingel says, adding that the nonprofit aims to help residents stabilize at affordable rents, get established, save some money, and then move up the housing scale.