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New energy-efficient and affordable homes

February 14, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
Imagine buying a brand new energy-efficient home with all of the amenities for thousands less than other homes in the area. You're not dreaming. Here's a look at affordable homes that are a partnership between home builders, city government and home buyers.

Rhodia and Michael Shead are showing their new home in Buena Park they just bought. They'd been renting for a long time but were finally able to afford to buy their own place because the price was so good.

"We live in a pretty nice neighborhood as it is and what's being built right next to that neighborhood is a starting price of a little over $600,000," said Michael. "So that makes this house quite a bargain."

Bargain is right: The Sheads' price was under $400,000, and the home is not without the amenities most homeowners would want.

"Well I love it. When I read about the features that they would be putting in it, I said 'Wow, that's everything I would like to have but didn't think we could afford,'" said Rhodia.

So how is all this possible? Well it starts with parcels of land the city of Buena Park owned but was not using.

"Two of them were former water wells that were abandoned, that we converted to housing," said Scott Riordan, project manager for the Buena Park Redevelopment Administration. "Three of them were just like this one, which were previously remnants from street-widenings. And then four were abandoned foreclosed homes."

So the city virtually deeds the property over to the new homeowners when escrow is closed. But that's not the only savings.

The builder, RSI Development, constructs the home in as little as six weeks using some very advanced techniques.

"We figured out how to build a factory that can build long panelized walls that you can quickly assemble them on a home site and then finish them off in a traditional way," said Eric VanDerHeyden, a spokesman for RSI Development. "And that lowers the cost of building tremendously."

RSI built nine homes in Buena Park this way and they've worked with other communities, including a development in Santa Ana, to create affordable housing that's a "win-win-win" situation for everyone.

Great price, innovative construction and a community willing to provide the land adds up to a terrific partnership, a partnership that could work all across the country.