Centre considers funding sustainable home project

By EMMA GOSALVEZ

egosalvez@lockhaven.com

BELLEFONTE — The State College Community Land Trust wants to make affordable, sustainable homes a reality for homeowners in Centre County.

On Tuesday, the community land trust, also known as SCCLT, made a request to the Centre County Board of Commissioners for $25,000 in financial support to help with a project called GreenBuild. The project will involve construction of two energy-efficient homes by Envinity Inc., a State College-based home construction company, and the project is estimated to cost approximately $700,000, according to Peg Hambrick, chair of the GreenBuild committee and SCCLT volunteer. The total cost includes the cost of the construction for each home at approximately $250,000, the cost of the land at approximately $150,000 and a lot of start-up costs.

Since 1996, SCCLT has purchased 38 houses that the organization has rehabilitated for sale or resale. According to Hambrick, first-time homeowners have come to the land trust with concerns about staying long-term in their homes because of energy costs. Energy costs have become quite the challenge among low- and middle- class families, who are paying a greater percentage of their income for energy than families with higher incomes. For advice on this challenge, Hambrick and Ron Quinn, executive director of SCCLT, sought out advice from the Penn State College of Arts and Architecture.

“Out of these first discussions, GreenBuild was conceived,” Hambrick said. “[The goal is to] design and build an energy-efficient duplex and learn from that what we can apply to the homes that we currently own and actually share this information for all the taxpayers in the county.”

The GreenBuild project will produce energy savings through the use of various technologies and applications built into each home, Hambrick said. Heating for each 1,400-square-foot unit is projected to cost less than $200 a year, and all electrical use, which includes heating, is estimated to cost less than $1,000 per year. These homes will be marketed to middle-class first-time homeowners.

Recent data shows that low- and middle- class families use about 17 to 19 percent of their income for energy costs. Hambrick said that the GreenBuild homes will ensure that homeowners only use about two percent of their income on energy.

These two homes, which will be connected by a carport, will be built at 1394 University Drive in State College. To purchase one of these homes, it will cost approximately $175,000 for the homeowner, Hambrick said. This is significantly lower than the cost of the average State College home, which costs approximately $275,000.

This project, which was developed in partnership with Penn State College of Arts and Architecture, Hamer Center for Community Design/Energy Efficient Housing Research Group and the State College Borough, will result in many benefits, for not only two SCCLT families, but also for Centre County and beyond, Hambrick said. Not only will it reduce energy costs, but it will also increase home value, preserve affordability, help create jobs, and reduce homeowners’ reliance on assistance programs.

The hope is to have 90 percent of the fundraising commitment by Jan. 15 and afterward, sign the contract with Envinity Inc., Hambrick said. By spring 2017, SCCLT hopes to break ground on the project.

To help fund the project, SCCLT is also looking to partner with West Penn Power, local banks, area foundations and businesses, duplex homeowners, and SCCLT board of directors, homeowners and individual donors.

The Board of Commissioners agreed that GreenBuild is a beneficial project for the county but that a smaller amount of $15,000 might be more appropriate, as $25,000 would be the largest contribution Centre County government has made with Act 137 funds.

“Since this is the first endeavor, we want to make it meaningful, but that is a pretty large amount,” Commissioner Mike Pipe said. “But I think from my personal stance, I’d be happy to help with fundraising or letting individuals know that we’re supporting it, if the motion passed and we go forward with this.”

The commissioners decided they needed more time to further consider the funding request and tabled discussion on the request until their Dec. 20 meeting.

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