We almost caused a car accident yesterday at 7th St. & Montgomery Ave., when the sight of some unexpected buildings stopped us dead in our tracks.



A sign was leaning against the building on the corner with a phone number to call for more information, and we wasted no time. After a few moments of conversation, we remembered hearing about these homes years ago, and were able to start putting the pieces together. These two homes, along with eleven others like them, were built by community group Asociacion de Puertorriquenos en Marcha (APM) as affordable housing units. According to their website, APM has constructed more than 210 units of affordable housing rentals, 136 affordable housing units that have been for owner occupants, and a 44K sqft retail center in the neighborhood.

The homes themselves are a shock to the system, looking like nothing else in the area. Interface Studios came up with the design for the homes, which served as an inspiration for the $100K house collaboration with Postgreen, according to Beth Miller of the Community Design Collaborative. The alignment of the homes, in L-shaped pairs, further distinguishes them from everything else in town.

Aerial rendering from ISA

Looking up Sheridan St.

Closer look

The homes, most of which are on the 1800 block of N. Sheridan St., have 3 bedrooms, 1.5 bathrooms, solar panels, rain water collection barrels, roof decks, off-street parking with pervious pavers, and green roofs. They are on the market for $150K-$160K, but are only available to first time home-buyers that meet certain income requirements. Three are under contract, which means ten are still available.

Probably our favorite thing about this development is that it literally screams “THESE ARE GREEN HOMES!” And that’s the first time we’ve ever really seen that in affordable housing projects in Philadelphia, aside from the still-in-process Norris Apartments from PHA.

Which leads us to wonder- are we currently crossing the threshold for green construction in affordable housing in Philadelphia? It makes almost too much sense. The people who rent/buy affordable housing are on tight budgets. A unit with reduced energy costs will lessen their burden. For evidence that green construction can be done on a budget, we have but to look at the two market-rate homes Postgreen and ISA built for $100K in 2008.

If APM can do it, and PHA can do it, and private developers can do it (and make a profit), shouldn’t all affordable housing developers do it? Or, better yet, shouldn’t all affordable housing developers be required to do it?