The recession left empty spaces across America: Cleveland has 20,000 vacant lots; Chicago owns 15,000; and at least 21 square miles of Detroit’s 139 square miles are barren. “In many urban locations vacant and underutilized land is abundant,” states the American Sustainability Initiative (AmeriSus), a four-year-old supplier based in Penns Park, Pa. On July 4th, the company launched City Benefits, a program that contributes approximately $2,500 to any city’s general budget for every home built on a vacant lot or teardown using AmeriSus’ eco-home kits.
Charlie Kamps, the company’s non-executive chairman, told Builder that 18 homes already had been completed in seven states. The kits feature SIP walls, energy-efficient appliances and windows, and high-velocity HVAC systems. A materials package for a 1,500-square-foot house runs around $75,000. Builders using the kits have completed houses in eight weeks for a total cost, including labor, of $90 to $110 per square foot.
Initially, Kamps had no intention of getting into home building. His other company, Transactionable Property Solutions, is a brownfield developer in New York. In 2009, it conducted a study of household budgets to figure out why so many people bought homes they couldn’t afford. It concluded the houses themselves could be made less expensive, less wasteful, and more energy efficient. “Housing became the single item that offered the greatest opportunity for creating savings,” says Donna Kamps, AmeriSus’ CEO.
The incentives come out of the kits’ profits. Kamps says his company currently has commitments from builders for 400 homes.