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‘Net-zero’ energy homes to be built in Ruskin

The homes are designed to expand affordable housing options.

RUSKIN — A local nonprofit is hoping to make sustainability a bigger part of the conversation of affordable housing.

Seven homes which will be built in the Sunset at Bayou Pass neighborhood this year will be “net-zero” energy — or consume as much energy as renewable energy is generated — after the Florida Home Partnership, a nonprofit organization and Community Housing Development Organization, received a $150,000 grant from Wells Fargo.

“We started to look at ‘who are we helping?’ and ‘how can we do a better job?’” said Mike Morina, executive director of the partnership.

He said there’s not enough affordable housing, and the gap is getting bigger.

"We have to make the long-term costs of home ownership steady and affordable,” Morina said.

The homes will be constructed from Insulated Concrete Form, a concrete material sandwiched between layers of polystyrene foam. The homes will also feature spray-foam insulation, solar panels and metal roofs.

Electric bills are expected to be lower and the metal roofs, made of partially recyclable materials, last longer than traditional shingle roofs and lead to lower homeowner costs.

“People will never have to worry about their roof as long as they’re in that house,” Morina said.

Each house will be about 1600 square feet, have three to four bedrooms and a two-car garage. Construction is expected to begin this month and be completed by summer.

To qualify for one of the homes, applicants must receive a household income at 80 percent or below the median income for Hillsborough County — $53,500 for a family of four.

The grant is part of a $9 million philanthropic effort to 62 nonprofits from Wells Fargo and a $1 billion commitment to tackling affordable housing over the next six years.

“America can’t afford unaffordable housing,” said Wells Fargo Suncoast Region president Steven Schultz in an email. “There are too many people — in every community across the nation — forced by rising housing costs to sacrifice other basic needs like food, health care and education. Our goal is to reduce the cost burden of housing, and get more people into safe, stable and affordable homes.”

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