Four years ago, Ed Blake, the Executive Director of Salt Lake Valley Habitat for Humanity began to feel dissatisfied with types of homes that Habitat Humanity was building.
“I knew we could do better,” said Blake.
Blake felt the floor plans of the homes weren’t best serving the families, typically earning between 30 to 50 percent of the area median income (AMI), that receive homes from the nonprofit organization that builds provides affordable housing for families in need.
Jörg Rügemer, an Associate Professor in the School Of Architecture at the University of Utah, agreed with Blake’s assessment and suggested that the nonprofit build more energy and cost efficient homes. Over the past three years, the University of Utah School of Architecture has worked with Habitat for Humanity to design and plan the “Field of Dreams” eco-community, a 20 unit energy efficient housing development.
On Tuesday, state and county leaders joined representatives from Habitat for Humanity to officially break ground on the project that will replace a historic baseball field in Kearns.
Rügemer designed the homes to be passive houses, a designation for homes that consume very little energy. Habitat is calling the homes “The $1.50 House” based on the concept that energy costs are expected to be $1.50 per day.
“We will be saving families as much as $100 a month,” said Blake.
The nonprofit see’s the reduced energy costs as a means to help families leave intergenerational poverty.
The homes are designed to cost just $150,000, including the cost of land, and be assembled by volunteers, many of which have limited construction experience. Habit’s homes are constructed by volunteers and funded through a revolving fund called the Fund for Humanity. Potential recipients of a Habitat home must volunteer 225 hours to qualify for a home. In return, recipients get a 30-year interest-free mortgage.
The homes will twin homes with 10 homes on the north and south sides of the 2.0-acre parcel with a common lawn area and playground at the center of the development. A u-shaped private drive will run along the perimeter of the site connecting the homes to 4270 West. The homes will have small front yards with water efficient landscaping and raised plant beds for vegetable gardens in the rear yard.
Landscape architectural firm, Voda Landscape + Planning, designed that yards and common area. According to Voda’s design plans, the landscape is designed around water efficiency with native plans that reduce the need for maintenance. The garden beds are intended to provide access to fresh produce to the residents of the Field of Dreams community.
“This will be part of the Kearn’s renaissance,” said Salt Lake County Mayor, Ben McAdams.
The homes replace the historic Kearns American Little League baseball fields. The currently vacant fields used to be the site of the Kearns Camp, a temporary military based used during World War II. After the camp left in 1949, residents came together to purchase the land and convert it to baseball fields.
“This ballpark was owned, operated and loved by this community,” said Utah State Senator, Karen Mayne, whose district includes Kearns. “Now this (the Field of Dreams eco-community) will become a jewel for Salt Lake County.”
The historic Kearns American arch will be moved east and will serve as the entrance to the playground.
According to Black, Habitat for Humanity will spend up to $1 million dollars repairing neighborhood homes as part of its Neighborhood Revitalization Program that seeks to provide critical housing repairs to residents in need. The repairs are intended to improve the health and quality of life for the program’s recipients.