Habitat for Humanity Greater Boston has received the annual Best in Sustainability Award from its parent organization, Habitat for Humanity International, recognizing its innovative design for four environmentally-friendly, energy-efficient affordable homeowner units planned for Roslindale.

The design for the new homes near Roslindale Square and the Arnold Arboretum showcases Habitat Greater Boston’s commitment to incorporating cutting edge sustainable design elements into affordable homes for hardworking families. The plans incorporate Passive House standards intended to significantly reduce the homes’ carbon footprint and promote climate resiliency.

“We’re honored and humbled to have been chosen for this award out of Habitat for Humanity affiliates all over the world,” Habitat Greater Boston President and CEO Jim Kostaras said. “This represents the future of affordable home building, bringing it to the forefront of climate resilience and investing in families and sustainable communities.”

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An architectural rendering showing a side view of two residential buildings with people walking in front


Following a competitive process, the City of Boston selected Habitat Greater Boston, in partnership with non-profit Adaptiv Architecture & Planning, to build affordable housing on the Walter Street property. The project is in the final permitting stages.

“We’ve worked alongside the Roslindale community and Habitat Greater Boston throughout this project to develop a climate resilient and sustainable design,” said Robert Freni, CEO and founder of Adaptiv Architecture & Planning. “Together, we’ve worked hard to develop a project that is well designed and highly energy efficient to give the future homeowners a great place to live and grow, while keeping their operational costs as low as possible.”

Additional partners on the project include RDH Building Science, which provided consulting services on Passive House design standards and building enclosure, and Bellalta 3 Design, which did landscape design for the site.

Plans for the site include a gut renovation of an existing home and construction of a second building in the style of a barn that once stood on the property. Each of the two buildings will have two condominium units designed for families.

“The landscape design complements and integrates with the sensitive environment of the adjacent Roslindale wetlands,” said Antonia Bellalta, a landscape architect and founder of Bellalta 3 Design. “The design embraces the concept of the original home and barn to transform a single-family home into a four-family community. Maximizing a small site by creating multiuse outdoor gathering spaces will create a natural setting for the new families to thrive as a community.”

The new homes will use significantly less energy than traditional homes through robust enclosure design and incorporating high efficiency systems for heating and cooling, ventilation, and lighting. All the systems will be electric, and the buildings will have solar panels on the roofs. The homes will contribute to reaching the City of Boston’s 2050 carbon-neutrality goals.

“The Passive House design of these homes makes a leap forward in reducing operational carbon emissions of the built environment by considering whole-building performance early in the design process,” said Andrew Steingiser, associate, senior project architect, and Passive House consultant at RDH. “Performance of building enclosure and mechanical systems are evaluated as part of the balanced energy budget. Designing this way helps future-proof these homes so that they remain resilient and affordable in future climates.” 

An additional benefit of the design will be a significant reduction in the future homeowners’ energy bills, providing added financial security for families, said Micki Younger, architecture and sustainable design coordinator at Habitat Greater Boston.

“It’s an honor to be recognized for our work toward sustainable building that benefits the planet and families,” she said. “This project shows that affordability and sustainability can be one and the same. This is a direction in design we plan to continue at future sites.”

The Walter Street development will also provide badly needed affordable homes amid the region’s housing crisis.

Soaring rents and a mounting shortage of affordable housing options have put homeownership out of reach of many families. Greater Boston has some of the highest housing costs in the nation, putting homeownership out of reach of a growing number of families who face displacement from their homes and communities due to rising rents. The Boston Foundation’s 2022 Greater Boston Housing Report Card reports that nearly half of all renters in the region pay more than 30% of their income on rent.

Families who partner with Habitat Greater Boston earn 80% of the area median income or less. They work alongside Habitat Greater Boston staff and volunteers to help build their future homes in lieu of a down payment. When the homes are complete, each family receives a no-interest mortgage with monthly payments capped at no more than 30% of their gross income.

Additionally, partner families complete a series of first-time homebuyer courses to prepare them for the responsibilities and opportunities of homeownership.

Volunteers contribute about 70% of the labor to build Habitat Greater Boston homes, with the remainder performed by staff and licensed subcontractors. Funding for Habitat Greater Boston homes comes from a network of generous supporters.

Since 1987, Habitat Greater Boston has built 122 affordable homes for more than 630 individuals. The organization is nearing completion on a two-family home in Mission Hill and has five townhomes under construction in Malden. Plans for upcoming projects include more than two-dozen additional homes in Dorchester and Weston.