In Housing Matters, there are new affordable housing options in Addison County.  And just as important, they’re good for the environment.

“What can we do better?  How can we produce homes that wouldn’t be so vulnerable and would be energy efficient,” asked Gus Seelig, Director of Vermont’s Housing and Conservation Board.  Seelig, as well as other Vermont leaders hope the answer to that, lies within McKnight Lane in Waltham.

“There’s been a lot of challenges, but it’s really great to be part of bringing a defunct neighborhood back into operation,” said Cindy Reid, Development Director for Cathedral Square.  Her organization aims to create healthy homes and caring communities.  It was one of the many organizations who joined forces for this affordable housing community.

“I do remember being here seeing the skeleton of a mobile home park and the animals running out from underneath them, walking down and seeing the sewer line that needed to be connected,” reminisced Vermont’s Community Development Program Director Josh Handford.  McKnight Lane consists of fourteen energy efficient mobile homes split into seven 2 and 3 bedroom duplexes.  Each unit is powered by a 6 kilowatt solar array and storage battery, making McKnight Lane the first net-zero energy community in Vermont.

The homes are aimed at families with incomes at or below 50% and 60% of the area mean income.  At a time when the vacancy rate in the Addison County region is less than 1%, project leaders the new affordable homes area a rare opportunity for many low income Vermonters.

That energy efficiency and power storage is good news for those residents, but also other Vermonters.  “We’re able to not just have these homes be net-zero, but we’re actually able to leverage and utilize the energy that’s stored in these homes for the rest of the customers that are served off the grid,” explained Green Mountain Power CEO Mary Powell, at a Ribbon Cutting held October 19th.  “We recognize that energy burden can be particularly heavy for some folks that are living in drafty, inefficient homes, like so many of the traditional mobile homes are,” added Efficiency Vermont Leader Liz Gamache.

The former unoccupied, blighted mobile home park located in Waltham, bordering Vergennes, had sat unused for 6 years.  The project required old, and dilapidated mobile homes to be torn down, the land had to be remediated, and local municipal system brought back into working order.

“These days a lot of families are struggling to pay their rent and their groceries and their fuel and their car payment.  Things can be very stressful for families with low wages.  Our goal was to deliver low-cost housing that’s high quality,” stated Reid.

With energy efficiency and affordability in mind, Reid hopes McKnight Lane can become the standard for Vermont.  “This housing model is a great, high quality, made in Vermont model that can be replicated in other parks and on owned land around the state,” she said.

The energy efficient homes were built by Vermod, a Wilder, Vermont based company.  Two more units are on the way.  Three families now call McKnight Lane home, and more families are in the process of becoming tenants.

McKnight Lane was named to honor Terry McKnight, Addison County Community Trust’s former Executive Director.  He died unexpectedly in November 2014.  For year McKnight had wanted to transform the mobile home park into a new, vibrant community.