In an ongoing effort to offer more affordable housing and help residents become climate resilient, Westside Housing Organization is installing solar on its apartment buildings in the Westside and Northeast neighborhoods of Kansas City, MO.
Westside Housing is one of six organizations across the country selected for a $150,000 grant from the Institute for Sustainable Communities (ISC) and its pilot program, Partnership for Resilient Communities. The program provides organizations with resources and technical assistance for green infrastructure and solar projects that build resilience in low-income communities.
“We are very conscious of climate change and the need to reduce our carbon footprint,” said Warren Adams-Leavitt, Westside Housing manager of strategic energy initiatives. “We are trying to make all of our units energy efficient, which also makes them more affordable.”
Westside Housing had previously installed solar on two buildings and chose these two additional locations for the Partnership for Resilient Communities project:
Northeast: 8th & Woodland, Kansas City, MO
Westside Housing purchased an historic, dilapidated, vacant building at 8th and Woodland streets for $5,000 from the Land Bank of Kansas City, MO and raised $1-million in donations and obtained a $400,000 loan for the project renovation.
The ISC grant will fund the installation of 83 roof-top solar panels by KCP&L Solar. The solar array will generate 39,690 kilowatt hours (kWh) annually to cover 100 percent of the electrical use in the residential and common areas of the building, Adams-Leavitt said.
The two-story brick building is being gutted and renovated to house Legal Aid of Western Missouri and two additional tenants on the first floor. The second floor will be restored to its original use with 10 affordable housing units. Two three-bedroom units will anchor the area. The remaining housing will be single room occupancy (SRO) with a shared kitchen and bathrooms.
“It was originally designed 110 years ago with a grocery store or restaurant on the first floor and SROs on the second floor,” Adams-Leavitt, said. “By going back to that design, we can really lower costs and provide affordable housing by bundling utilities and rent into one monthly fee.”
The commercial space is scheduled to open in May, with residential units ready later this year. The SRO units will rent for $475 a month.
Westside: Jefferson Place Apartments, 1655 Jefferson St., Kansas City, MO
Westside Housing owns the four apartment buildings that house 15 units at Jefferson Place Apartments. The buildings are more than 100 years old and had been previously renovated and retrofitted with energy-efficiency features.
As part of the ISC grant, SunSmart Technologies installed 23 panels to generate 22,812 kWh per year. The solar will provide electricity for the common area lighting in hallways, porches, laundry room and parking lot. By lowering operating costs, Westside Housing is able to keep the rent prices affordable for tenants. Rent ranges from $575 – $690 for two- and three-bedroom apartments.
“Our goal is to have solar on every future renovation and new housing,” Adams-Leavitt said. “Ultimately, we believe we need community solar projects within different parts of the city that can benefit the whole community.”
The city of Kansas City, MO estimates there is a shortage of 23,000 affordable housing options throughout the city, according to Adams-Leavitt. Westside Housing owns nine buildings that provide 163 affordable-housing units.
“Westside Housing has worked at the intersection of housing, health, energy and equity for 45 years in K.C.,” said Gloria Ortiz Fisher, executive director. “Starting in the Westside neighborhood, we now work across the city in neighborhoods where costs to maintain homes and pay utilities are unaffordable for a growing number of people. We think renewable energy is part of the solution and see the advantages of solar panels on the buildings we own and manage.”
Additional partners contributing to the affordability efforts on the Woodland Street project include: Albert Tamm Lumber, BNIM Architects, CFM Distributors, City of Kansas City-MO, First Citizens Bank, Hall Family Foundation, H&R Block Foundation, Housing Authority of Kansas City and NeighborWorks America.