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Habitat for Humanity Metro Denver Builds First TOD Project

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Twenty-four families will receive a hand up from Habitat for Humanity of Metro Denver when the $3.4-million Bails Townhome Community, the organization’s first green transit-oriented development, is complete in September.

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Located in the Virginia Village neighborhood, within .5 mi of the Regional Transit Development’s light rail and city buses, Bails Townhome Community, on 1.3 acres at 4350 E. Bails St., will be everything TOD is supposed to be.

“With the high focus on FasTracks development around the metro Denver area, we really think this is a good opportunity to show what a walkable community can look like,” says Heather Lafferty, HFHMD executive director.

“Housing and transportation are the two largest percentages of a family’s income,” Lafferty says. “The average Denver family spends 59% of its income on transportation and housing costs, leaving little left over for basic necessities.”

Bails will provide nearby, affordable transportation and affordable housing, which is the hallmark of Habitat and “helps families become sustainable,” Lafferty says.

“With demand for housing within .5 mi of light-rail stations projected to increase over 300% between now and 2030, this affordable housing project will provide sustainable solutions for Habitat families well into the future,” Lafferty adds.

Habitat homes are typically built to be 40% more energy efficient than the International Building Code standard and boast utility bills that average $65 per month, says Bruce Carpenter, construction manager.

The Bails project will have added green components, thanks to funding from Enterprise Community Partners Inc. of Columbia, Maryland’s Green Communities and Partners in Sustainable Building, a new partnership of the Home Depot Foundation and Habitat for Humanity International.

The Bails project will also include photovoltaic panels, which will generate up to 75% of the electric usage for each unit; low-flow toilets, faucets and showerheads; and added indoor air-quality standards, including low-VOC materials and radon monitoring.

HFHMD, which is its own general contractor on the project, broke ground in May. Paid and volunteer contractors installed underground utilities, a city-specified water retention structure, streets and foundations. By January, volunteers began performing above-ground construction.

“We do just about everything with volunteer labor except licensed trades – mechanical, electrical and plumbing,” Carpenter says. Second-story roofs, floor coverings and irrigation are also subbed out, he adds.

An average of 75-100 volunteers work Wednesdays through Saturdays.

“We have approximately 12 paid staff on site who are qualified with technical expertise,” Carpenter says. “The day-to-day operations are always a challenge, and a lot of fun.”

Peter Hynes, an architect and president of Urbitecture Inc. of Denver, is one of the volunteers. He started five years ago and began putting together land deals for HFHMD and helped to develop its single-family portfolio to include duplexes, triplexes and now the first townhomes.

Bails’s tight site dictated townhomes to accommodate the number of units HFHMD wanted on the property, Hynes says. “We had to build more than one story to get the number of bedrooms required for fully accessible units, play areas and parking,” he adds.

Urbitecture routinely does affordable housing and caters to nonprofits, Hynes says. But the Bails project is particularly satisfying because it is the rare confluence of affordable housing, green and TOD.

“It’s not often you can do all the good things you want to do in the world,” he says.

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