In a region where the median price for a single-family home hit $800,000 in July, Bend-Redmond Habitat for Humanity is working to create homes for residents who have already been priced out of the buyer’s market, but don’t qualify for traditional affordable housing.
Even better, many of Bend-Redmond Habitat’s homes are able to produce all of their energy using solar power, making them net-zero homes. Energy costs are estimated to be as low as $12 per month, or however much the power company charges to hook a house up to the grid.
Part of the national nonprofit Habitat for Humanity, the Bend-Redmond chapter has already built 40 energy efficient homes since 2021, 12 of which are considered net-zero homes. These homes are available to people who make up to 100% of the average median income, rather than the 80%, which is typical of affordable homeownership programs nationwide.
“As an organization, we aspire to make all of our homes net zero, or as energy efficient as we can while being good stewards of our donor funds,” said Carly Colgan, CEO of Bend-Redmond Habitat. “We want to create more equity when it comes to efficient homes.”
It would make sense then, that JP Marshall, an energy adviser, would be interested in purchasing one of the Central Oregon organization’s net-zero homes, but he had no idea that would be the case when he and his partner applied. For the family of four, it was more important to find an affordable home to raise their two children in. The energy efficiency was “icing on the cake,” he said.
“The cost of living (in Bend) is just astronomical, and the rental uncertainty … people will sell houses you’re renting and you have to find a new place quickly. Having children in school makes it really difficult to try and find (another rental) within the same neighborhood so the kids can keep going to the same school.”
Since moving in, Marshall said his experience living in one of Bend-Redmond Habitat’s net-zero homes has been wonderful. In addition to having an energy bill under $20 per month even at peak heating and cooling periods, the home’s energy-efficient insulation is so good that it helps keep the smoke out during fire season.
“For someone who is low to intermediate income like myself — or even somebody who is doing really well — I think living in a home like this has nothing besides benefits,” Marshall said.
“It costs a little bit extra in the building process, but after it’s complete, the cost of maintaining the house is much less over the course of the lifespan of the house.”
Colgan explained why energy efficiency can be so important for someone who is low- to moderate-income. That demographic, she said, often buys older homes priced lower on the market, but then spends incredible amounts of money combating poor insulation or lives without amenities like air conditioning. Colgan said Bend-Redmond Habitat aims to build 20 homes per year. Its most recent net-zero home was completed in October. The nonprofit has already selected a buyer for the home, but after receiving a grant from the city of Bend’s Middle-Income Housing Pilot Program, has begun the planning process for another.