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Eco-Village: Sustainable, Affordable

By Jim Buchta, Star Tribune

Nakeia and Ramell Dismond are like most working-class families: After the rent is paid, they have no money left in the budget for their kids' activities or vacations.

That will change in a couple of months when they purchase a new twin home on the west edge of River Falls, Wis. There, crews are building a housing development that will produce all its own power, saving homeowners hundreds of dollars each month.

The project is the largest of its kind in the nation for Habitat for Humanity, the sixth-biggest U.S. home builder last year. The nonprofit says the development will create affordable housing at a time when mortgages have become tougher to get. It'll also serve as a national model, showing for-profit developers that homes can be both energy-efficient and economical on a large scale.

"A project of this size helps propel us further along that green and sustainable path," said Matt Clark, director of construction technologies at Habitat headquarters in Atlanta. "As an industry, we all need to be moving toward green and sustainable solutions."

The Eco-Village will create its own power through a combination of solar panels, geothermal heating and other energy-saving measures, then sell the power back to the utilities. When finished, the development will have 18 single-family and attached homes as well as a huge park. The St. Croix Valley Chapter of Habitat is building the Eco-Village on a once-neglected site along the edge of downtown River Falls, about 45 minutes east of the Twin Cities.

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