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The District of Columbia Housing Authority (DCHA) was just one of the many hands making light work at the Empowerhouse ribbon cutting ceremony Tuesday, December 4, 2012.

The event was the first of its kind in DC, bringing together the non-profit, academic and government sectors together to user in a new era of affordable housing in the District. One of the keys to an affordable home in affordable upkeep and maintenance, and one family will get an unprecedented amount of assistance. DCHA employee and Housing Choice Voucher Program participant Dorothy Jackson and her daughter will live in one of two passive homes. 

“We are delighted to renew our relationship with Habitat for Humanity,” said DCHA Executive Director Adrianne Todman. “The very first home to be purchased with a voucher was a Habitat home, and we thank them for their continued commitment to our residents.”

The original home was designed and constructed by a team of students from Parsons The New School for Design, The New School for Public Engagement, and Stevens Institute of Technology for the Department of Energy's Solar Decathlon competition, where it took top honors in the affordability category. When it was decided that the home would remain in the District, the team designed something specific for a site in the Deanwood neighborhood, then expanded it into a two-family home.

Dorothy Jackson and her daughter will be one of those two families living in the state-of-the-art duplex. Jackson’s path to homeownership came through DCHA’s Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) program. The program is designed to guide residents on a path off of public assistance. This voluntary program starts with a contract between DCHA and the participant. Under the contract, the participant picks goals such as education, employment and homeownership—to move the family closer to self-sufficiency. A DCHA FSS counselor helps the participant put together a plan to reach that goal within five years. The duration of the program typically lasts between five to seven years, and DCHA also puts a portion of the participant’s monthly rent in escrow during that time. Jackson enrolled in the program in 2010, and has already achieved her goal of homeownership.

The team behind the Empowerhouse worked with Habitat for Humanity of Washington, DC (DC Habitat), DCHA and the DC Department of Housing and Development (DHCD) to build the home and select the two families who will reside there. The first family will purchase the home through DC Habitat and will be moving in January.

The net-zero nature of the home means that it will consume 90 percent less energy than a typical home; the solar panels on the house were some of the smallest in the Decathalon due to the low energy needs. Because of our swampy weather, designers installed dehumidifiers and carefully managed the flow of air through the home. Compared to a typical Deanwood home, it is projected Empowerhouse will result in $2,000 in annual energy cost savings.  Heating and cooling the homes will require the same amount of power as it takes to operate a hair dryer.

"Because the passive house design can reduce a home's total energy consumption by 80-90 percent, the owners of the Empowerhouse units will enjoy substantially lower energy costs throughout the lifetime of their homes,” said Susanne Slater, President and CEO of DC Habitat. “DC Habitat is thrilled to offer two hard-working families the added affordability of this model. For some families, a significant savings on energy can mean the ability to afford a summer vacation or help pay for college tuition."

DC Habitat announced in June that they will be breaking ground on six more similarly energy-efficient homes in the Ivy City community and are looking forward to working to house additional DCHA residents.

New Homeowner Dorothy Jackson takes a moment from the festivities to take a photo with a few of the people who celebrated her new home. She is pictured with (l to r) her daughter Johnnie Dempsey, DHCD Director Michael Kelly, The New School Trustee Sheila Johnson, DCHA Executive Director Adrianne Todman and Habitat for Humanity President and CEO Susanne Slater.
New Homeowner Dorothy Jackson takes a moment from the festivities to take a photo with a few of the people who celebrated her new home. She is pictured with (l to r) her daughter Johnnie Dempsey, DHCD Director Michael Kelly, The New School Trustee Sheila Johnson, DCHA Executive Director Adrianne Todman and Habitat for Humanity President and CEO Susanne Slater.
Last modified: 12/30/2014 3:13:36 PM