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Municipality of San Juan, Puerto Rico HOME Program Casa Verde Program (Green House Program)

In 2005, as part of the "Green Platform Initiative" presented by the Mayor of San Juan, Hon. Jorge Santini, the City of San Juan's Department of Housing and Community Development conducted research to identify and implement green and sustainable construction methods for the development of affordable housing units. The City of San Juan is fully aware of the need to help restore our environment, and that cities and conventional residential structures are the primary sources of contamination and carbon emissions. One of San Juan's priorities was to search for technological measures that would allow the municipal government to provide eligible very low and low-income families safe, decent and sanitary housing that would mitigate the structure's negative impact on the environment, while falling within the municipality's affordability parameters. Some of these measures are the reduction of carbon emissions; ensuring that the structures are fire, hurricane and earthquake resistant; ensuring that the structures yield cooler interior temperatures (to reduce energy consumption); and techniques that foster faster construction (as opposed to conventional construction). In regards to construction techniques, the city's housing culture, for the private and the affordable market alike, is biased in favor of masonry, the industry standard in Puerto Rico. In the end, however, the advantages and savings of the sustainable technologies used outweighed the initially higher price tag.

The resulting program, known as "Casa Verde" (Green House), was inaugurated in 2009 with the delivery of its first two pilot single housing units. Under this program, the City is financing the development of over 200 green single and multifamily units. San Juan also established as its public policy that all units developed with City financing must be sustainable. The Municipal Government's investment to date for this type of housing is estimated at over $17M (combined funds).

The Municipal Government is currently working on its latest project under the Casa Verde Program-"Ecohab," two state-of-the-art 100% green single units-as part of the process of obtaining the first "Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design" (LEED) Certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. When obtained, this LEED Certification will serve as the precursor for affordable housing design in all tropical regions of the United States, including Florida and Hawaii.

Among the unique innovations found in the Ecohab units are: 1) load-bearing patented green panel walls; 2) solar energy water heater and panels; 3) net-metering; 4) "Lavadue" (a patented restroom technology which transforms human waste into recyclable organic compost); 5) a rain-water recycling system for both potable as well as non-potable use; 6) a green roof; 7) Energy Star appliances and "eco-bulbs"; 8) organic exterior/interior paint; and a User's Manual to educate owners in the proper, sustainable use of the unit. The sale price of each unit is $147,000.

The Municipality of San Juan's goal is to use this project as the standard to follow in future affordable housing developments and as a model for other jurisdictions. Casa Verde is truly a one-of-a-kind initiative exclusive to the City of San Juan, and is the first and only sustainable and affordable housing project launched by any local jurisdiction, or as the Mayor has stated, perhaps in the nation.

The "Casa Verde" pilot project is a component of the City of San Juan's HOME Program, and at present, is fully funded with federal funds. Plans are underway to expand the program's potential growth to further finance projects that assist low income families-particularly those ineligible for HOME funding-by creating the "San Juan Sustainable Development Trust Fund." This trust fund is a revolving fund mechanism that will incorporate HOME, CDBG, HOPWA and local monies. The San Juan HOME Program's ultimate goal is to serve as a public financing option in the absence of other private capital. Once implemented, both low cost interim and permanent (mortgage) loans and grants will be awarded to private market projects, as a means of expanding green and sustainable housing development for all sectors of San Juan's population.

The Municipal Government of San Juan and Mayor Jorge Santini have been acclaimed as national leaders in the field of sustainability and environmental protection, and as an example for other cities and communities to follow, the mayor was recognized for his commendable efforts at the 2011 Annual National Conference of Mayors, held in Baltimore, MD.

Casa Verde Program – HOME Program Pilot Units
(Before and After Photos of the units)

[Photo 1: Casa Verde Program - HOME Program Pilot Units before and after photos]

The Clients
Both pilot project units are occupied by low income families.

[Photo 2: Carmen Iris Nieves]
Carmen Iris Nieves Low Income Family
Project description Reconstruction of existing dilapidated unit
Total Investment $118,000 HOME Funds

[Photo 3: Margarita Mojica]
Margarita Mojica Low Income Family
Project description Reconstruction of existing dilapidated unit
Total Investment $127,068 HOME Funds


Content Archived: January 2, 2014

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