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In today’s housing market, sustainable features are often a hallmark of luxury development. But in Minnesota, a new housing development is proving affordability and sustainability can go hand in hand.

Just south of St. Petersburg, Florida, a newly built development is the picture of sustainable luxury. Twelve of the development’s solar-equipped, highly efficient homes have been operating for three months, and they’ve continually generated more power than they consume.

But the Florida homes’ seven-figure asking prices aren’t in everyone’s budget. Enter Hillcrest Village, in the southern Minnesota city of Northfield.

Hillcrest Village, an affordable housing development in Northfield, Minnesota.
Hillcrest Village, an affordable housing development in Northfield, Minnesota. Credit: Brian Nowak / Courtesy

The development looks like a collection of well-built new homes — and that’s the point, project developer Brian Nowak told the Energy News Network.

“They have a certain percentage [of] workforce housing; another percentage is transitional in emergency housing,” Nowak said of the homes. “And they didn’t want the people that were in transition in their lives or in crisis to feel like they were walking into a home that was a science experiment or an art project.”

The single-family homes are all equipped with solar power, energy efficiency features, and electric heating, cooling and appliances. Those measures should keep utility bills low for low-income residents, who will also pay below-median rents.

Hillcrest Village is among a number of projects helping undo the notion that affordable housing requires shoddy construction and materials. But with its mix of public and private funding, Hillcrest also shows that government investment is often needed to make sure housing is both affordable and high quality. 

Read more about Hillcrest Village — and what public housing authorities can learn from it — at the Energy News Network.

P.S. We’re taking a break next week for Independence Day. We’ll see you again on July 12!

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Kathryn brings her extensive editorial background to the Energy News Network team, where she oversees the early-morning production of ENN’s five email digest newsletters as well as distribution of ENN’s original journalism with other media outlets. From documenting chronic illness’ effect on college students to following the inner workings of Congress, Kathryn has built a broad experience in her more than five years working at major publications including The Week Magazine. Kathryn holds a Bachelor of Science in magazine journalism and information management and technology from Syracuse University.