Carrfour Supportive Housing is taking a “holistic approach” to emphasize a healthy, sustainable lifestyle for the residents of its latest development opening this spring, says Stephanie Berman, the nonprofit's president.

The 145-unit Verde Gardens Apartments will not only provide housing for formerly homeless families, but it also will provide the residents with the opportunity to earn a living by learning to farm and then selling the organic produce they grow at a farmers market on-site and at other markets around the county.

“The idea of venturing into something we've never done before is scary,"

says Berman. “But we have embraced the idea and have a good advisory group behind it."

Berman says the goal behind the farming microenterprise and the overall development is to teach families how to sustain themselves and benefit from a healthier, green lifestyle.

Verde Gardens, located in southern Miami-Dade County on a piece of the former Homestead Air Force Base that is no longer in use after Hurricane Andrew ravaged the area in 1992, is targeted toward formerly homeless families that have at least one individual in the household with a permanent disability; it features two-, three-, and four-bedroom townhomes.

“Because of the economy and housing market, we're seeing a lot more families come into the system,” Berman says.

Carrfour hopes to start the farmers market soon after residents move in by bringing in locally grown produce so they have product to sell and can start generating revenue. The land clearing and preparation was under way at press time so residents will be able to start planting at move-in as well. A microenterprise coordinator entrenched in the farming aspect will work on-site to help the residents.

Another way the developer is focusing on creating healthier lifestyles is by making Verde Gardens a very walkable community since the area is surrounded by bike trails and walking paths.

“We want them to enjoy the space without driving through it,” Berman says. Carrfour has also focused on creating a community feel by having porches facing toward one another and by building a community center that will provide common space for the residents and house on-site supportive staff.

The goal for the project is to receive Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design silver certification.

The townhome units are built to Energy Star standards and have white roofs for increased interior energy efficiency, energy-efficient glass, insulation applied to all exterior walls for increased thermal efficiency, and proper sealing at all gaps in the wall construction to ensure maximum efficiency. The market and community center also will feature low-flow plumbing features, which will reduce water-use savings by 50 percent; high energy-efficient mechanical systems; reduced water usage for irrigation; increased natural ventilation; stormwater quantity and quality control; and energy-efficient lighting fixtures and design.

The $19.4 million development was financed through $15 million in Miami- Dade County General Obligation Bonds, $3 million in Miami-Dade County HOME funding, $1.1 million from the Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust, a $750,000 state of Florida Homeless Housing Assistance grant, and a $100,000 grant from Citi. The residents will pay 30 percent of their incomes for rent.