Remodeling a Green Home for the Formerly Homeless

Erna P. Harris Court rehabilitates 35 one-bedroom and single room occupancy apartments.

Granite countertops, hydronic radiant water heating, ventilation fans with built-in humidity sensors and linoleum flooring that incorporates recycled materials – this is the future of residential construction, and it’s not only for luxury mansions. The in Berkeley, a complex of subsidized apartments for formerly homeless and disabled adults, opened its doors for an open house on Thursday to show off its green renovation.

Advocates and supporters of affordable housing stopped by to get a glimpse inside a typical apartment as part of a week-long series of events promoting affordable housing.

“A lot of these units were old and moldy,” said Oracio Burgos, project manager at D&H Construction, the general contractor for the project. When they started the renovation, he said, they discovered large amounts of dry rot and mold in the foundations and crawl spaces of the buildings. Today, a french drain, smart ventilators, and floor layouts that encourage natural airflow have done away with complaints about odor and allergies, said Burgos.

“It’s a hundred percent better,” said Floyd Ruffin, maintenance technician for the buildings who has worked at Erna P. Harris Court for about a year. The Court comprises 35 one-bedroom and single room occupancy (SRO) units, and Ruffin said that many of the residents have lived there for ten years or longer.

Miya Kitahara, who does multifamily outreach for Stopwaste.org, said the renovation is part of a pilot program of GreenPoint Rated, a certification system developed for residential housing. “Residential buildings that are doing rehabilitation – there’s a huge opportunity to green that up,” she said.

Other energy-saving upgrades that were on display in both a ground-floor and second-story apartment included insulation in the floors, walls, and ceilings, double-paned windows, energy star appliances and low-flush toilets.

The over $6.5 million rehabilitation project was the result of combined efforts by city and county agencies and federal funding. Funds from the Multifamily Housing Program and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act were essential to the project, while strict deadlines acted as a spur to keep the project moving swiftly forward, said Carolyn Bookhart, project manager for the developer, Resources for Community Development.

The Berkeley Housing Authority operates the program while rents are subsidized by Section 8 and Shelter Plus Care funds, said Bookhart.

Primary Sources of Funding

source: Resources for Community Development

City of Berkeley


County of Alameda


MHP/ARRA (Multifamily Housing Program/American Recovery and Reinvestment Act)


TCAC (California Tax Credit Allocation Committee)


Federal Home Loan Bank AHP funds


Bay Area Local Initiatives Corporation




Enterprise Community Partners


Total Development Costs


 Outside in the sunny open courtyard, workers continued to grade dirt for a community garden and outdoor seating area. Work on individual units is mostly completed and a grand opening is anticipated in September or October, said Ruffin.

Additional resources:
Berkeley Housing Authority go to: http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/bha/
Shelter Plus Care: http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/ContentDisplay.aspx?id=5562

[Editor's Note: Know of a green building project near you? Do you have experience building green buildings? Tell us about it!]


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