High efficiency, affordable housing rental units open in Cape Coral

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Cape Coral’s first affordable housing rental units built according to high efficiency energy standards are now open on Southeast 8th Terrace.

The 8-unit complex is one of three in Lee County built for the Southwest Florida Affordable Housing Choice Foundation, Inc., which is affiliated with the Housing Authority of the City of Fort Myers. Coconut Cove, as the Cape project is known, brings the number of energy efficient units opened this year by the FMHA to 62.

Coconut Cove was opened for occupancy in April. The development is centrally located a few streets behind Cape Coral Hospital and north of Viscaya Parkway. Attempts to reach residents were unsuccessful.

Four more units could be in service by 2014. The city and Southwest Florida Affordable Housing are looking for land now. Until now using green construction standards was recommended, but not required. The next project, however, must use them to qualify for federal construction money.

“This is our first project with the city of Cape Coral,” said Fort Myers Housing Authority real estate director Marcia Davis. “To save residents on utility costs long term, that was the major reason we went with LEED for the homes.”

LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. Features of a home built to LEED standards include solar water heating saving an estimated 80 percent of the cost of heating water, low volume plumbing fixtures, Energy Star appliances and increased insulation.

Florida’s energy-saving efforts have saved 12 million kilowatts a year, according to state’s 2011 energy report. The weatherization program alone is estimated to have saved people with low incomes about $348 a year, according to the report.

“Green is always more expensive to do, but it’s the long term payoff in energy uses that you’re looking for,” said Amy Yearsley, coordinator of the city’s affordable housing programs. “Home ownership always isn’t an option for everyone.”

Clients typically are seniors, but anyone who meets the income standards set by HUD could rent an apartment. Their rent, however, is not subsidized, Davis said. The income requirements are on a sliding scale based on the number of people in a family. The income caps range from $19,950 for one person to $28,500 for a family of four.

The housing authority had a contract with the city of Cape Coral to build Coconut Cove at 1221 Southeast 8th Terrace. The city used some of its federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program funding for Coconut Cove.

“We haven’t ever worked as a developer of housing. We find good partner agencies that are set up and structured to implement our programs long term,” Yearsley said.

Coconut Cove must remain a rental for people with low incomes for 25 years, Yearsley said.

Owen-Ames-Kimball Co. constructed the project and was awarded the LEED for Homes Platinum Certification by the U.S. Green Building Council. The project was mentioned by the USGBC when it announced this year that it has reached the milestone of 20,000 certified projects in the nation.

Another 79,000 are in the pipeline. More than 50 percent of the LEED homes is for affordable housing uses. LEED certification became available in 2008.

The spokeswoman for USGBC did respond to four requests for comment.

A 2012 study by McGraw Hill, which publishes a construction trade industry magazine, showed green home construction is up and that, by 2016, it’s expected to be valued from $87 million to $114 billion.

They include single and multi-family units and serve the affordable and market rate needs of the country. LEED certified projects in Southwest Florida serve the affordable housing need for the most part, although three custom homes in Naples and Fort Myers have been built.

Statewide 201 homes are LEED certified. The total includes 8 units in Cape Coral, 54 in Fort Myers, 2 custom homes in Naples and one custom home in Fort Myers.

Contacts:

  • Southwest Florida Affordable Housing Choice Foundation at the Housing Authority of Fort Myers: www.hacfm.org or (239) 344-3220
  • U.S. Green Building Council: www.usgbc.org or 1-800-7951747

 

Maximum income for renting in Coconut Cove

  • $19,950 for one person
  • $22,800 for family of two
  • $25,650 for a family of three
  • $28,500 for a family of four

 

Don Ruane has spent over 30 years as a journalist writing on various topics around Southwest Florida. He currently serves as Senior Correspondent for CapeCoral.com and writes a weekly article that publishes every Tuesday. Don can be reached by email at druane@capecoral.com.