Subsidized Housing Goes Green In Houston

Subsidized housing may conjure visions of faltering old hotels on a bleak urban landscape,  but there’s a different reality in Houston’s Denver Harbor area. An organization dedicated to providing affordable single-room-occupancy housing has opened a 166-unit, LEED Platinum certified complex.

What’s intriguing about the complex — beyond the mere fact of its existence — is that the builder didn’t rack up LEED points with a big rooftop solar system, the way most do. New Hope Housing couldn’t really afford that. Instead, it earned points in ways that helped make 2424 Sankowitz attractive and comfortable for its rent-paying residents, while also being economic viable for its operators.

Subsidized LEED Platinum housing, Houston, Tex.

image via New Hope Housing

New Hope pointed to: siting, landscaping (more than 100 native trees), water and energy conserving appliances and fixtures; and use of recycled materials. As a New Hope representative told a Houston website: “LEED will also help us keep our rents low in terms of our energy costs. It’s a benefit to our residents. After all, that’s why we’re building these buildings. It’s fun to build beautiful structures, but our real business here is to stabilize lives and to prevent homelessness.”

Within a one-mile radius of the complex, residents can reach a grocery store, a convenience store, several restaurants and several local bus lines. Each furnished unit includes a microwave, refrigerator and private bath. Residents also have access to community spaces, a business center, community kitchen, courtyards and more.

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Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.