Delridge Neighborhood Development Association

Croft Place Townhomes in Seattle’s Delridge neighborhood debunks the myth that green is only for high-end housing or has to bust the budget to be effective. In fact, it makes a case that green is tailor-made for ­affordable housing.

The 21-unit, low-rise rental apartment project not only boasts a laundry list of resource- and energy-saving features, but also serves low-income families with a high-quality, durable, and attractive product. “Sustainability is a primary principal of our organization,” says Parie Hines, project manager for the ­Delridge Neighborhood Development Association (DNDA), the project’s developer. “Green building makes sense for low-income families.”

Here’s why: Following Seattle’s Built Green program checklist, the units were designed and built to reduce monthly utility expenses, keep ongoing maintenance costs in check, and provide a healthier indoor environment. “Affordable housing is in such a crisis,” she says, “we need to consider the best solutions.”

Croft Place Townhomes earned a 3-star rating (out of 5) from Built Green with features including native and drought-tolerant landscaping replacing turf grass in properly prepared and amended soil, which eliminated the need for mechanical landscape irrigation. DNDA also specified Energy Star–qualified appliances and lighting which, when combined with construction practices, resulted in a 10 percent energy savings compared to code.

In addition, water heaters are located closest to the highest water-use appliance in each unit, and roof-mounted photovoltaic (PV) arrays that offset the power grid by 2 percent accompany the units.

The project also employed a construction waste recycling program during production, used several materials with recycled content (including siding, roofing, and insulation), and created a built-in ­recycling center for residents, equipping them with in-unit receptacles. It also gained green points for ­using one-third of a 3.1-acre infill parcel within a quarter-mile of public transportation, thus reducing vehicle emissions produced by commuting residents.

McStain Neighborhoods

With Croft Place Apartments, DNDA gained a greater perspective about its sustainability mission. “Following Built Green allowed us to track [progress] and work with designers and contractors to establish benchmarks,” says Hines. Going green also helped secure public financing, financial incentives from the local utility (which purchased and is monitoring the PV system), and a grant used by residents to design a school bus shelter and gateways into the community, among other artistic elements.

All of the 21 apartments, ranging from 650-square-foot, one-bedroom units to 1,580-square-foot, four-bedroom dwellings, exclusively serve residents earning 50 percent or below Seattle’s median income. A third of the apartments are reserved for families transitioning out of homelessness, for which the rent is no more than 30 percent of their income.

While Hines admits that Croft Place Apartments could have been built for less, the final cost was comparable to medium- or high-end housing elsewhere in the city. Because of their use of city funds, DNDA was required to pay prevailing wage rates for workers, something private developers don’t typically do, thus boosting the budget further.

But the payoff, if not immediate return in investment, has long since been satisfied. Hines reports that residents take pride in their little community, a feeling nurtured by the artistic elements they created and personalized and by the pedestrian and neighbor-friendly atmosphere enabled by the master plan. Sustainable indeed.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Seattle, WA.