Solar-Powered Affordable Housing

Posted by: Chris Palmeri on June 7, 2007

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If you were hoping to get a coveted spot at Solara, a new energy-efficient apartment building in the San Diego suburb of Poway you’ve already missed your chance. The owners cut off the waiting list at 800 names. The 54 units were fully leased in three days. The apartments, which were available only to low income tenants, started at just $388 a month for a one bedroom, about a third of the market rate. On top of that, tenants will pay nothing for electricity. That’s taken care of by the solar panels you see on the roof in the photo.

The Solara projects illustrates the convergence of two trends, a long time push on the part of governments to get private developers to build low income housing through tax incentives rather than the scary, government-run public housing developments of yore. The other trend, of course, is green building.

Solara, which officially opened June 5, may be the largest green, affordable housing project in the country. Affordable housing doesn’t come cheap, however. The $16 million project required $12 million in government subsidies. Almost the entire cost of the $1.1 million solar power system was paid for through state and federal tax credits. Ted Bardacke, the senior associate at the environmental group Global Green who consulted on the project, says developers should take note. All of those credits are available for future projects. “This project didn’t receive anything out of the ordinary,” he says. “Every developer of affordable housing is looking at this and saying we can do this too.”

Reader Comments

Anne Wilson

June 7, 2007 2:07 PM

SOLARA, the first apartment complex in California, and possibly the fist in the country, to be fully powered by the sun, was developed by Community HousingWorks, a San Diego based nonprofit corporation. Community HousingWorks has developed and currently owns andoperates 1,500 apartments throughtout San Diego County. Some of the higer cost of this affordable housing is explained by the cost of acheiving higher levels of energy efficiency in all building systems and by the fact that the owner/developer plans to own the properties for the long term and builds to higher standards to ensure long term durability.

Chris

June 17, 2007 12:15 AM

Is solar power truly affordable now or is it only isolated communities that solar power is a viable option for ? Do we urbanites have a chance to save money using solar energy?

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About

BusinessWeek editors Chris Palmeri, Prashant Gopal and Peter Coy chronicle the highs and lows of the housing and mortgage markets on their Hot Property blog. In print and online, the Hot Property team first wrote about the potential downside of lenders pushing riskier, "option ARM" mortgages and the rise in mortgage fraud back in 2005—well ahead of many other media outlets. In 2008, Hot Property bloggers finished #1 in a ranking of the world's top 100 "most powerful property people" by the British real estate website Global edge. Hot Property was named among the 25 most influential real estate blogs of 2007 by Inman News.

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