Low- Income Housing

Topics: Public housing, Green building, Sustainable design Pages: 13 (4451 words) Published: October 18, 2009
Research Paper on Sustainable Low- Income Housing
The most successful, long term, low-income housing projects are those that use sustainable design and address the social, cultural, and economic needs of residents. Traditionally built low-income housing projects are associated with high crime rates and high mortality rates among the residents who live in them. They do not provide for the needs of residents, resulting in many of the problems these low-income housing projects face today. These problems range from endangerment of human life, psychological afflictions due to the high stresses that are endured by residents, disease epidemics caused by overcrowding and unsanitary living conditions (in combination with a substandard public health system,) and rejection from the greater community based on the stigma traditional low-income housing projects have generated. Sustainable, or “green” design offers many solutions to the problems housing projects present today, including healthier living environments, high efficiency utility systems that result in lower bills for residents, safe recreation areas for common use, a sense of community within the project as well as with the greater community, and aesthetically pleasing environments to live in. Building with sustainable materials alone will not alleviate the problems traditional housing has, but must combine elements of sustainable design with residents’ needs. By implementing sustainable low-income housing projects with residents’ need in mind, the developers, residents, and the community as a whole will benefit.

Low-income housing projects that are sustainably designed are intrinsically better than traditionally built housing projects for a variety of reasons, including the benefits they provide to a wide range of people. Residents of low-income housing projects that are sustainably built can benefit in a myriad of ways. Sustainable design incorporates energy-efficient and water-conserving technologies in the buildings as well as in the appliances of these buildings. As a result many low-income residents of sustainably designed housing developments benefit from lower utility bills. Techniques, like designing spaces with a number of large, well insulated windows are aimed to cut down on electricity costs (Brooke, Cohen, Hampton). In a joint study done by New Ecology Inc. and the Tellus Institute looking at 16 sustainably built housing projects it was found that, “occupants would save an average of $12,637 in utility costs over the life of each home,” (Cohen). They also found that the buildings studied were able to save up to 50 percent more on energy costs, up to 20 percent more on water, and also save 20 percent more on electricity costs (Cohen). In Seattle, Washington, sustainably built [green] low income housing projects have been developed using “systems, appliances, lighting fixtures and landscaping that save money and water, low-fume paint and carpeting, and durable materials that do not have to be replaced as often” (Cohen). Residents benefit from low utility costs, and housing developers and owners benefit with government subsidies, lower operating costs, and buildings that are sturdier than those traditionally built for low income housing (Marin; Cohen). Because of all these benefits, residents in sustainably designed housing projects are likely to stay in the project for a longer period than those living in traditionally built projects.

A community with a sustainably designed project often views the project in a more favorable light than they would a traditionally built housing project, enabling residents to become part of the community instead of being treated as pariahs (Marin). Studies show that people living in sustainable housing projects move less frequently, and have positive feelings about their homes. Susan King, a principle at the architecture firm Harvey Devereaux in Chicago commented on the benefits to the community and to residents that come...
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