High-end, zero-energy homes create new class of low-income housing in Hillsborough County

Workers in Ruskin are building homes for average families, but they're not average homes. They are advertised as zero-energy homes, which means they produce as much energy as they use over the course of a year, using roof-mounted solar power arrays and energy-saving construction.

Large, white blocks used to build the homes is the first evidence there's something different about them. They're more like large, foam LEGO blocks, according to Jody Fitzgerald, the construction manager for the non-profit Florida Home Partnership.

"They're insulated concrete forms...once erected, we fill with concrete," Fitzgerald explained.

That makes for weather-tight walls. Homes being built with these blocks also have metal roofs that last a lifetime.

The Florida Home Partnership is building seven three- and four-bedroom homes, priced at $200,000 and under, in the Sunset at Bayou Pass neighborhood.

They are available for homebuyers whose household income is 80% or below the median income for Hillsborough County, which for a family of four is $53,500. Down payment assistance is also available for those who qualify.

Hillsborough County and Wells Fargo provided grants to help with the project. 

"We absolutely have a crisis in affordable housing, as many communities do," said Hillsborough County Commissioner Kimberly Overman. "We have to come up with innovative ways to deal with this and this is a good example of how this is happening." 

Overman says these zero-energy homes will continue to save homebuyers money over the long term.

LINK: For more information on these homes and the Florida Housing Partnership, visit http://flhome.org/ or call 813-672-7889.