Katrina Love used to open the latest utility bill with a sense of foreboding, wondering how she would pay. Now, she looks at the power bill and sighs with relief.
“My electric bill is $103,” Love said. “That’s great. I can save and buy my children some clothes, some shoes. I don’t have to worry about figuring out where this money is going to come from because the bill is always low.”
She’s not alone, thanks to a cutting-edge affordable housing development in Greenville, Mississippi, that focuses not only on providing safe, modern housing – but also lower costs for residents through green technology.
The Reserves of Gray Park features 42 new, eco-friendly units with gated access. Gray Park opened in July 2018, thanks to a combination of funding sources. and unanimous approval from the City Council.
From the onset, the goal was to make the $6.1 million development unique.
“We love showing this project off,” said Daniel Boggs, CEO of the Greater Greenville Housing and Revitalization Association. “I mean everybody who comes and looks at this project, they’re completely amazed at the thought process that went into it.”
According to Boggs, the process included a return to design techniques from the past – centuries ago – by incorporating features such as cross-ventilation and large overhangs while moving away from a reliance on large, inefficient air conditioning units and the pollution they generate. Gray Park’s old-school-meets-new eco-hybrid model instead “uses natural elements that are free to us, like wind, water, rain and sunlight,” Boggs pointed out.
The design produces immediate savings. Boggs said that’s important not only from a sustainability standpoint, but also in keeping with economic realities. Thus, the impact can be felt well beyond this slice of Mississippi.
“We knew that if we had the opportunity to build something new, we wanted to make it something special,” Boggs added. “We wanted to make it a pilot, or a model, that could be used nationwide whenever it comes to affordable housing development.”
Boggs noted that the changes in affordable rental rates over the past decade has been insignificant. As such, rising costs of utilities — including water, trash and sewer services — pose the greatest threat to maintaining affordable housing units in rural communities.
“So, what we want to do is create a development that could actually attack those issues and put more money back into the pockets of the tenants,” Boggs said.
As a result, people save up to $700 a year in utility costs.
“With the efficiencies in the way the complex was built, they’re actually able to save more money,” said Walt Stephens, the Market Executive in Greenville for Regions Bank, which provided construction and permanent funding for the project. “And when they save, they can put it in a savings account, put it in an investment account, and save more money for the future — and help build a better future for themselves and their kids. That’s something that’s a great thing to be a part of.”
For Katrina Love, the savings are a bonus, on top of the sense of security she now has for her family.
“I like the gated entrance,” she said. “I don’t have to worry about anyone coming in any time, doing anything wrong. “
That’s not lost on LoRose Hunter, Regions’ Community Development Manager in Mississippi.
“This project, in this community, is very special,” Hunter said. “It’s a great partnership because what it really does is revitalize a community. And it really impacts the individuals and the families that live in that community by giving them better, safe housing.”