Thistle Community Housing and Flatirons Habitat for Humanity (FHFH) have accomplished the challenge of building homes that are both affordable and green. In doing so, Thistle and FHFH were able to shatter the stereotype that building green is elite and expensive, and the community has noticed. The ground-breaking this Fall of FHFH’s development in Boulder, Colorado comes on the heels of the ribbon-cutting by Thistle in Longmont, Colorado. The end result is that green, affordable homes have become a reality for a number of Colorado residents whose income is typically below sixty percent of the median household income.
In December of 2006, after completion of a research report on green buildings and affordable housing in Colorado, the Argosy Foundation made the decision to provide support for Thistle Community Housing and Flatirons Habitat for Humanity. Thistle is a nonprofit organization committed to helping working families, seniors, and people with disabilities find housing they can afford in the high land cost area of Boulder and Adams Counties. Using its community Land Trust program, Thistle provides homes that are both economically and environmentally sustainable. With Argosy’s support, Thistle was able to begin construction of 100 permanently-affordable homes in January 2007. Thistle’s 198-home, mixed income community at Blue Vista is being built with a strong focus on environmental sustainability, surpassing Built-Green and Energy-Star standards. For example, advanced framing techniques allow for a reduced lumber package, while creating a durable structure and sturdy walls packed with high-density insulation. Blue Vista homes are also equipped with Energy Star appliances to ensure residents are not only saving money on their utility bills, but also saving natural resources.
After building Blue Vista, Thistle was contacted by the city of Longmont to share their experience with building green, and to help set new regulations on the city’s green building codes. As Chris Allison, Chief Building Official for the City of Longmont, stated in regard to Blue Vista and its code creation, “Thistle Community Housing should be commended for their help with formulating the City of Longmont Green Points program adopted in September of 2007. Their assistance in helping to verify the Green Points application and guide functionality improved the document approved by the City of Longmont City Council. We [Longmont’s Building Department] appreciate their effort with this project.”
Flatirons Habitat for Humanity has also taken on this difficult goal of creating green, affordable housing. Their method in doing so is quite consistent with Habitat Humanity International’s mission to provide homes and homeownership to those who otherwise would not be able to afford it. FHFH homeowners have an income range of 25-40% of area median income. FHFH, however, took a different approach in tackling the expensive home market in Boulder, Colorado. With the realization that going green was not only environmentally friendly, but also economical, FHFH began by doing a cost benefit analysis of green upgrades to their homes, and found that building green would save its residents considerable amounts of money over time. This journey was not without challenges. However, on October 26, 2007, FHFH was able to pour the foundations of their new affordable green homes. FHFH plans to continue building green in the Boulder area and realizes that projects such as these not only improve the city, but also improve its residents. As Paul Casey, Executive Director for FHFH, states “Building green is the right thing to do today for homeowners, their likelihood of success is higher with a higher standard of green. It relieves the pressures of money to consumers and helps insulate them from the cold and from the high costs of energy.”