Council members approve funding for green homes

Council members agreed on Friday to award more than $600,000 to developers to build the homes by the end of this year.

Council members approve funding for green homes

Nick Wicker

City officials created a program three years ago to rid north Minneapolis of abandoned lots in the area and turn them into sustainable homes for neighborhood residents.

Now, the City Council is on the funding stage of the Green Homes North Program, which includes the construction of 13 new houses built with environmentally-friendly materials.

Council members agreed on Friday to award more than $600,000 to nonprofit and for-profit developers to build the homes on parcels of land sold by the city this year.

Ward 2 City Councilman Cam Gordon, who represents the University of Minnesota and surrounding neighborhoods, said the program was created to boost the housing market in the north Minneapolis area, while focusing on sustainable design and efficient building practices.

The program started in 2012 with the goal of building 100 houses in five years. Before the program’s newest round of funding, 43 homes were constructed or were in the process of construction.

Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity is in charge of building four of the houses this year. The organization will offer low-income residents a zero-percent interest mortgage, and all of their monthly payments will go toward the homes’ building costs, under the condition that these families participate in 300 hours of volunteering and complete homeownership courses.

“I think in the future, [the green homes] will be an example for the city of what a community can be if it decides to really take green thinking seriously and make it a priority,” said Matt Haugen, the organization’s spokesman.

Bev Scherrer, chair of the Housing Committee for the Hawthorne Neighborhood Council, said the use of environmentally-friendly construction techniques, including wood floors instead of plastic tiles, cement board instead of vinyl siding and low-flow showers and faucets, all add to the “green” construction of a house.

Scherrer said environmentally-sustainable homes in the Hawthorne neighborhood were built as part of the neighborhood’s EcoVillage initiative before the Council launched the Green Homes North Program.

One EcoVillage building was designed by University of Minnesota students and faculty members in 2012. The house, called the “NetZero” home, is completely self-sufficient in terms of energy.

Gordon said he hopes the new funding for the program will raise the popularity of green-building techniques that could lower waste and combat climate change on a small scale.