Fitsum Kebede beamed with pride as he stood at the door of his new home in Northeast Washington, shaking hands and greeting well-wishers on this scorching hot afternoon. The heat seemed to have little effect on the new homeowner whose smile never wavered as he welcomed a steady stream of people into the row house.
Kebede, his partner, Hanna Boku, and their two daughters were one of six families whose homes were dedicated Saturday as part of a ceremony recognizing the completion of Habitat for Humanity’s Ivy City Phase II and the start of Phase III.
“It’s a thrill,” said Susanne Slater, president and CEO of D.C. Habitat for Humanity. “This is what we keep working for, the moment when the families actually cut the ribbon on the house and the houses are all done and beautiful. The families are so excited. They’ve all worked very, very hard.”
Kebede’s home is an Earthcraft house, which was built to be more energy efficient than a typical house. The six homes that will be built as part of Phase III will be passive houses. A passive house is designed to reduce energy consumption by 80 to 90 percent. Habitat is building the first passive house in the District in the Deanwood neighborhood, which should be completed in late September. The group will use what it learned building that duplex when it constructs the six homes in Ivy City. Habitat for Humanity, which has long been known for its affordable housing programs, is now at the forefront of the affordable green housing movement in the District. The nonprofit group is building homes that not only promote environmental sustainability but also are cost-effective for the homeowner.
“We think it’s a great match between affordability and energy savings,” Slater said.
Passive houses don’t come cheap, though, which presents a challenge for Habitat. Slater estimates that a passive house costs about 20 percent more to build than a typical house.
“We have to fundraise the extra cost of the passive house,” she said. “We still sell below what it costs us to build, but it can’t be that much lower.”