Madison Park: Development Corporation’s Twenty at Luma

In September of 2009, the Boston Housing Authority designated Madison Park Development Corporation (MPDC) to develop affordable housing in a severely blighted area of Roxbury, Massachusetts.

The result is Twenty at Luma, 20 townhouse-style duplexes built to the LEED silver standard. All units have high efficiency boilers, low VOC paints and adhesives, low flow sinks and lavatories, low-e fiberglass windows and cellulose insulation. And although it wasn’t part of the original plan, 16 of the 20 units have their own solar photovoltaic system. Early in the design process, MPDC Project Manager Travis Lee thought the project might be a good candidate for the Mass Tech Collaborative grant that the cityof Boston had received for renewable energy applications.

At that point, he commissioned a solar feasibility study, which revealed that the orientation of the buildings, the roof structure and the tilt of the roof were all favorable for a solar array.

“That’s when we really went after city and state funding opportunities,” said Lee. At first, the city of Boston tentatively awarded $200,000 for the solar installation. Then the state of Massachusetts stepped in, and through its Green Affordable Housing Initiative (GAHI), replaced and more than doubled the city’s contribution, bringing the total funding for a PV system to nearly $500,000. The challenge of funding the PV system, however, paled in comparison to the challenge of raising the nearly $8 million to finance the entire project in the midst of a housing crisis. According to Lee, the state wasn’t willing to fund any additional affordable housing projects because many low-cost homes remained unsold. In the end, Lee and his team were able to convince the state that people were interested and willing to purchase affordable and environmentally sustainable housing, and Twenty at Luma became one of only two projects in the entire state to get funded in 2009.

For Lee, the benefits of affordable homeownership don’t begin and end with the purchase price. “The goal of the project was to bring affordable housing that was healthy for the people that lived in it, that was healthy for the environment around it, and that was a comfortable place for people to live, and was ongoingly affordable,” he said.

And low utility bills are an important part of ongoing affordability. Lee said he got a note from a homebuyer that stated he had a $3 electric bill.
“That’s what we’re shooting for,” said Lee. “We’re shooting for affordability from start to finish.”