First New York City Cooperative Installs Solar Panels

In December, an affordable 60-unit cooperative known as128 West 138th Street (the Co-op) became the first in the city to install solar panels under a program designed to bring renewable energy to buildings in upper Manhattan neighborhoods.

As a part of the Solar Uptown Now (SUN) campaign led by WE ACT for Environmental Justice (WE ACT), nine Housing Development Fund Corporation (HDFC) cooperatives will be completing solar electric installations on their rooftops, saving a total of $59,000 in the first year. The solar installations will save a total of 4,117 tons of greenhouse gas emissions over the lifetime of the systems.

WE ACT brought in the nonprofit Solar One, which conducted a feasibility study, provided cost and savings estimates and studied tax breaks and incentives. Working in collaboration with WE ACT, Solar One produced a request for proposals that required the contractor to use some of the workers from WE ACT’s neighborhood jobs-training program.

Since the 128 West 138th Street’s board was in the middle of a major parapet replacement and brick-pointing project and the roof was nearing the end of its useful life, it decided to have the contractor resurface the roof before the installation. The roof resurfacing cost $75,000, and the board authorized the expenditure of $38,000 of the Co-op’s funds to install the solar panels together with a $22,000 grant from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. Various tax abatements and incentives will bring the board’s Co-op’s cost down even further – resulting in a recovery of its investment in less than six years.

Cooperative Developers among Fund Recipients

The U.S. Treasury Department recently announced the distribution of $160,000,000 in funds to 221 community development financial institutions. Among the awardees are Capital Impact Partners (an affiliate of NCB), New Hampshire Community Loan Fund and Chicago Community Loan Fund.

CSI Upgrades, Rebrands and Refinances Its Kalamazoo, Mich., Cooperative

CSI support and development announced this summer that it would invest $300,000 to upgrade its senior housing cooperative in Washington Square—the first step in a five-year, $6 million renovation plan. The near-term enhancements include improvements to the interior and exterior, enhanced security and a name change for the Kalamazoo, Mich., cooperative.

Washington Square Co-op will be known as City View in the Square. CSI’s immediate plans for the cooperative include exterior improvements to the building and entryway, additional lighting, ornamental fencing, enhanced landscaping and parking entrance gates for added security.

Two Manufactured Home Communities Become Colorado’s First ROC

Homeowners in Cañon City, Colo., purchased their 50-home neighborhood for just over $2 million in December, becoming the first resident-owned community (ROC) in the state. The lot rent for the two communities is $407.

The ROC is made up of what used to be two separate neighborhoods: Cañon Country and Cedar Village. Members of the Cañon City ROC, incorporated as Rocky Mountain Homeowners Cooperative (RMHC), which now owns the land under their neighborhood. ROC USA® Capital and the Colorado Division of Housing provided financing and expertise.

The Colorado State Housing Board in Denver gave the cooperative a $600,000 grant to help with the community purchase and future repairs. Staff from Thistle, a certified technical assistance provider of ROC USA® Network, will work with and coach residents for the duration of their loan, at least 10 years.

RMHC is the 228th ROC in the ROC USA network, which is made up of more than 14,700 homeowners nationwide.

Mutual Housing’s Sustainable Housing Model Gains Global Recognition

By Steven Root

Mutual Housing California was honored with the 2017 World Habitat Award. The last U.S. cooperative-related winner was Champlain Housing Trust in 2008.

Each year the World Habitat Awards, in partnership with the United Nations – Habitat, are presented to two outstanding and innovative housing projects – from more than 100 entries from across the globe. The judges – who include Leilani Farha, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing – choose developments and providers that not only produced outstanding housing solutions but also can be copied elsewhere.

Mutual Housing at Spring Lake being 100 percent Zero Net Energy, means the utility bills are extremely low. Built in 2015, the 62-apartment and townhome community generates energy by solar panels installed on buildings and carport roofs to meet its electricity needs. Each home has a realtime, color-coded meter that helps residents track their energy use and stay within expected amounts for their apartment size. A water-based system for heating and air-conditioning also contributes to the energy savings, which are expected to reach 45,439 kilowatt hours and $58,000 annually.

The community has received LEED platinum certification, the first for a multi-family affordable housing development in Yolo County. The community also received the Environmental Protection Agency’s Indoor airPLUS certification and a Cool Davis Climate Solution Award in 2016.

Mutual Housing’s sustainability commitment and breakthrough of providing zero net energy to a very low-income population is remarkable, but what sets Mutual Housing apart is more than physical housing. The World Habitat award also highlights its achievement in providing a high-quality housing option that is affordable to agricultural workers and their families – many of whom struggle with housing insecurity. The estimated 6,000-plus agricultural workers in Yolo County endure some of the worst housing conditions – and most dangerous jobs – in the country.

“We are grateful to receive the 2017 World Habitat Award – and to join the ranks of so many remarkable finalists that are improving the housing conditions of people facing enormous challenges,” said Roberto Jiménez, Mutual Housing CEO. “We’re proud to have developed the first certified Zero Net Energy Ready multi-housing community in the USA and equally proud that agricultural workers and their families are the beneficiaries of this achievement.”

Further still, Mutual Housing’s resident engagement work is broad and deep. They work with adults, children and the elderly in a way that is inclusive and empowering with a multiplicity of programs that speak to the genuine interests and challenges of resident members.

“Through the community organizer and other staff, I have been presented with opportunities to work though some of my past traumas and grow my leadership skills,” said resident member Hector Sanchez. “We strive to build a community with one another knowing that each of us shares a connection to the agricultural land.”

The other winner was the Post-Haiyan Self- Recovery Housing Programme in the Philippines. After the widespread devastation of Typhoon Haiyan in 2013, this project helped more than 15,000 families rebuild their homes and self-recover.

Instead of relocating families, the project helped people rebuild their housing using locally available materials and debris from destroyed houses. As a result, families were reached and helped more quickly, and fewer were forced to leave the area. They also gained useful skills in the process.

“All of this year’s World Habitat Awards finalists are interesting and important,” said Farha. “They are helping so many people in difficult and vulnerable circumstances.”

“Billions of people across the world still lack a safe home. These remarkable projects show that it doesn’t have to be like that,” said David Ireland, director of World Habitat, funders and coordinators of the World Habitat Awards.

“Brilliant people and ideas have come together to show that people on low-incomes can live safely free from the fear of disease, natural disasters and insecurity.”

The World Habitat Awards began 30 years ago with the first awards being given in London in 1986 by His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales and Dr. Arcot Ramachandran, UN-Habitat executive director, at the time.

Run with support from UN-Habitat, the World Habitat Awards are the world’s leading housing awards. Full details can be found at www.worldhabitatawards.org.

Mutual Housing was presented with the award in February at a UN conference in Malaysia. In March, the organization will break ground on the second phase of this housing community, planned to achieve positive net energy.

Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Rural Local Initiatives Support Corporation and Columbia, Md.-based Enterprise Community Partners funded capacity-building grants to further Mutual Housing’s work in rural communities and sustainable development.

Founded in 1988, Mutual Housing California develops, operates and advocates for sustainable housing for the diversity of the region’s households.

A member of NeighborWorks America – a congressionally chartered nonprofit organization that supports community development nationwide – Mutual Housing has more than 3,200 residents, nearly half of whom are children.