Sustainable house may get new home

Clark County mulls different site for project with Habitat for Humanity

By Stephanie Rice, Columbian Vancouver city government reporter

Published:

 

A model green home may be coming to Felida instead of Hazel Dell.

Initially planned for the grounds of the former Washington State University research station on Northeast 78th Street, the “Living Habitat House” now may be planted on Northeast Hazel Dell Avenue, next to Sacajawea Elementary School.

Clark County commissioners gave the go-ahead last week to continue exploring the project, on which the county may partner with Evergreen Habitat for Humanity, but a final decision has not been made.

The home would be the first project permitted under the Clark County Sustainable Communities Pilot Program Ordinance, which was adopted by commissioners last year.

While the two-story, 1,269-square-foot home would meet sustainable building standards, there’s one matter about the proposal that might not pass a state auditor’s standards.

The county bought the Felida parcel in 2003 for $162,000. The money came out of the county’s road fund because the land was going to be used for a stormwater facility to accommodate a road-widening project, said Kevin Gray, Environmental Services director for Clark County. But the economy has put that project on hold.

Gray and Pete Dubois, the county’s sustainability coordinator, told commissioners they are working with a county deputy prosecuting attorney to figure out how they can build a home on land bought with road fund money.

Commissioner Tom Mielke said he was concerned about that aspect.

“The road fund is for roads,” he said.

Gray said later he will review leasing and other transfer mechanisms to ensure compliance with statutes and then prepare options for the commissioners to consider.

Gray said the green home was moved from what’s known as Heritage Farm in Hazel Dell to Felida because of complications on the Heritage Farm site that would have made the project more expensive.

Other county properties were considered, and the Felida one seemed to best fit the need.

When the county bought the Felida parcel, an existing home was torn down. The footprint of the former home has a fence around it.

“We’d rather put the land to positive use than to just sit vacant for years,” Gray said after the work session.

The parcel measures 33,390 square feet.

A 7,500-square-foot section would be used for the residential lot, Gray said. If the road widening project ever does happen, the county would consider other ways to meet stormwater regulations.

“We never intended one stormwater facility to accommodate the road,” Gray said.

If the home does get built with Habitat for Humanity, the occupants would be a qualified Habitat family (with income between 30 to 50 percent of the median income for Clark County) and would put in 300 hours of sweat equity. Habitat sells its houses at no profit, with affordable, no interest loans, Dubois told commissioners.

The occupants would have to maintain the property per terms of an agreement with the county, which would want to be able to point it out as a model of affordable, resource-efficient housing.

Students at Sacajawea would certainly see the home; Dubois said Vancouver Public Schools has granted an easement because the district owns adjacent property that children walk on to get to school.

The home would use 75 percent less water and energy compared to an average house of the same size, Dubois said, and wastewater would be managed on-site.

The three-bedroom, two-bathroom home — “pretty tight quarters, but efficient,” Dubois said — would have composting toilets. Water from sinks and showers would be used for irrigation, Dubois said. Other features could include rain-harvesting cisterns, structurally insulated panels and a solar water heater.

The total cost of the project was estimated at $129,175.

Stephanie Rice: 360-735-4508 or stephanie.rice@columbian.com.