Traverse City Record-Eagle

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March 20, 2013

'Green' Depot Neighborhood becomes a reality this year

TRAVERSE CITY — A new affordable, green home project will help preserve the planet, not to mention the green stuff in homeowners’ wallets.

Habitat for Humanity Grand Traverse Region aims to build 10, net-zero energy homes in the heart of Traverse City; that is, homes designed to create enough energy to pay utility and heating bills.

“Obviously, we are targeting this definition, and may or may not reach that goal. But it is our goal,” said Project Manager Ryan McCoon

HomeStretch Nonprofit Housing Corp., a development partner, will build an additional five energy-efficient duplexes and a single home in The Depot Neighborhood at the southwest corner of Eighth Street and Woodmere Avenue.

Pending permit approvals, the two nonprofits hope to break ground for infrastructure next month and build eight of the 21 planned units by year-end.

Habitat’s goal is to become the first net-zero Habitat community in Michigan. HomeStretch holds the same goal, but must still find a way to creatively finance solar panels that will be part of the project.

“At this point, solar is still very expensive,” McCoon said.

McCoon likens the planned homes to a thermos. Sealing and insulating a home makes it much cheaper to heat and cool. He estimates the unsubsidized cost of construction at roughly $140 per foot.

“That’s phenomenal; it’s still a cool situation,” he said.

McCoon said he proved the energy-efficient concept in a test home on Bass Lake Road.

“If you look at that house, their heating and cooling bill for the year was $220,” he said. “It’s almost identical to what we’re doing.”

The Depot project was made possible, in part, because Traverse City parted with a 2.5-acre parcel for $290,000. The city wasn’t able to get is original asking price of more than $600,000, in part because of the economic downturn, said Bill Merry, HomeStretch’s executive director.

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