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Archive for Tuesday, March 31, 2009

‘Green’ houses a hard sell in K.C.

March 31, 2009

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— Five new energy efficient homes in the city center are nice places to visit, but nobody seems to want to live there.

A nonprofit community organization spent two years piecing together the land and finding tax credits, then came up with $825,000 in grants and other funding to build the houses in an older neighborhood.

The houses are appraised at about $155,000 apiece, but the asking price for them is between $138,000 and $145,000. And government and private incentives could knock $30,000 off the price.

But despite all of that, plus receiving an award last month for being both energy efficient and affordable, the homes have been on the market for at least a year.

“They are nice homes, and they are very livable,” said Cindy Circo, a Kansas City councilwoman who has been involved with the project. “Anybody should be proud to have them.”

While they stand out in a neighborhood of older homes and streets dotted with vacant lots full of weeds and trash, they sit empty nonetheless.

Joanne Bussinger, executive director of Blue Hills Community Services, which put the project together, says narrow income guidelines, required because the Department of Housing and Urban Development paid for part of construction, have been difficult to overcome.

To be eligible to buy one of the homes, an individual can’t earn more than $38,300 a year, and a family of five can’t make more than $59,100.

Bussinger said many people who meet the income guidelines don’t qualify for loans because they have credit problems.

“We are talking about a very sensitive part of the population,” Bussinger said. “If you are considered low income, a lot of people who come to us have credit issues or have issues that don’t allow them to go through traditional lenders. It just takes a little longer to find the right people.”

The homes have three bedrooms, at least two bathrooms, oversized single-car garages and large yards. They have large, open rooms and extra-wide hallways and bathrooms to accommodate wheelchairs.

They also have energy-efficient appliances and furnaces, and use about $400 a year less in gas and electricity than similar-size homes without the ‘green’ features.

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