March 31, 2009 - A representative from an organization that certifies houses as “visitable” - meaning they’re easy for individuals with a disability to visit or reside in - will inspect seven new homes in the Park City neighborhood this week to see if they meet the necessary requirements for the EasyLiving Home designation.
Michael Price with EasyLiving Homes of Tennessee will be in Knoxville on April 2 to examine the homes. For more information about the inspections or to observe Price as he works, please contact Stephanie Cook at 865-215-2034.
If the houses meet the requirements, the seven affordable new homes developed by the Knox Housing Partnership (KHP) with funding provided by the City of Knoxville would be the first ones built in Knoxville to earn the EasyLiving Home certification. The seven homes were built by Knoxville-Knox County Community Action Committee (CAC).
The seven homes, five located on Chestnut Street and two on Houston Street, are the only group of affordable Gold-certified LEED houses in Tennessee. Vice President Al Gore’s home in Carthage is the only other home in Tennessee awarded the Gold- LEED for Homes designation. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is a national standard of the U.S. Green Building Council awarded to structures that use less energy, water and other resources than buildings constructed using conventional materials and methods.
At the city’s request, KHP built the houses to meet the necessary standards to be accessible to people with mobility issues, e.g., someone using a wheelchair or scooter. But this marks the first time the city and KHP have sought the EasyLiving Home certification.
“They were built to those standards and then some,” said Stephanie Cook, the City’s Disability Services Coordinator. “KHP went above and beyond what we asked them to do.”
A visitable home includes features such as one zero step entrance, 32-inch wide interior and exterior doorways and at least a half-bath on the main floor that is accessible by a person with a disability.
For these seven homes, the KHP also added an extra wide parking pad for use by a van with a lift, lowered the height of environmental controls like thermostats and light switches, and installed lever-handled door knobs.
Cook said the small changes create homes that can be lived in by someone with a disability and can make a difference to someone who, as they grow older, may face mobility issues in the future.
The City’s Community Development Department partners with groups like the Knox Housing Partnership to build affordable homes for low-and-moderate income working families in Knoxville.
Community Development requires builders to construct homes that are both energy efficient and visitable, while strongly encouraging partners to achieve the Easy Living Homes certification.
Madeline Rogero, Community Development Director, indicated that as the baby boomer generation reaches retirement age, and older, features like this will become more important in the housing industry.
“We want to encourage this kind of building,” she said, “and to do that you need to lead by example. So, we’re leading by doing and hopefully showing people how easy it is to install these features that can make a tremendous difference not only in their lives but in the lives of family or friends who might have a mobility issue.”
The City’s Community Development Department is committed to achieving the EasyLiving Home certification for new replacement homes built under its owner- occupied housing rehabilitation program.
More information about the City of Knoxville’s Community Development Department and its programs is available at www.cityofknoxville.org/development.
More information about EasyLiving Home certification is available at www.easylivinghome.org.
More information about Knox Housing Partnership is available at www.khp.org.