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Home > Feature Articles > Sustainable Development Best Practices for Community Sustainability

Do It Yourself Affordable Housing...Yes!

Affordable housing is feasible one house at a time. Here are some green concepts to consider!

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Green Strategies for Affordable Homes

We often think of "affordable housing" as a government-driven strategy. Incentives. Great interest rates. Subsidies.

But green strategy is a little different than that. Incentives are nice. But when it gets down to reality -- most people and most small companies don't qualify for many incentives. And the incentives are so structured that what qualifies sometimes isn't what you really need.

So, here's a different way of thinking about affordable homes that is in the homebuyer's control.

  • Think small. The "small house" movement is getting stronger by the year...if not month. McMansions are really not affordable -- either at the beginning with a huge interest payment, or over the seasons as air conditioning and heating set in. Not to mention all the housecleaning!!!
  • Think nature. Maximize nature's systems. By building smart, and using the natural temperature control of earthen berms, shade from window overhangs, windows that open for air flow, and proper directional siting so that you minimize East and West exposures in hot areas and North exposures in cole regions -- you will minimize your monthly payments for energy. And you will enjoy a closer relationship with nature.
  • Think community. Choosing the community in which to live makes a huge difference in how much you have to drive. Do you have groceries, your weekend exercise, shared laundry facilities, etc. within walking or electric car distance? The new Neighborhood Electric Vehicles will save a lot of tansportation costs -- both for that second vehicle and for fuel over the years you live in that neighborhood.
  • Think neighborly. Multifamily housing provides higher density to save farmland on our urban outskirts. Living close to people has its perks for community arts, festivals and even babysitters! Density becomes important when you think about how far your food has to travel. With many means traveling 2,000 miles to your plate -- if we all think about smart land use, we'll have lower foods costs -- fresher food because it can travel shorter times...and more local and seasonal variety. You might even want to explore CSAs and organic food coops!
  • Think Financially.With wildly fluctuating interest rates and housing prices, it's difficult to imagine how you can take control of your housing affordability. But your own credit rating also has something to do with the interest rate you will be paying. Good financial management also saves you big bucks on that down payment and on those monthly installments.

So...there are some ways you can make housing more affordable. Whether you're preparing for your first child, for the kids departure, or for retirement, many Americans are taking a more realistic look at how much housing costs month to month.

Housing has some of the largest emissions and heat impacts on the environment, and every home that retrofits itself to save water, electricity, natural gas, and prevent pollution makes our life boat floating in the great blue yonder a bit safer place for next year and the year after! And more affordable if insurance doesn't have to take up the slack for our own poor judgments and high risk behaviors!

Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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