Morinville's first ever affordable housing complex has officially opened its doors.
The province announced the grand opening of Morinville’s Paul Krauskopf Court Feb. 4. While the actual grand opening celebration has been delayed due to the pandemic, residents started to move into the place on Feb. 1.
The 40-unit apartment and townhouse complex was the first affordable housing project to be built in Morinville and the first complex in town designed to be net-zero in terms of energy use. It was named after former town mayor Paul Krauskopf, who died in office in 2013.
Mayor Barry Turner said this development would make Morinville a more inclusive community where people would no longer have to leave town simply to find a home they could afford.
“Mayor Krauskopf was a very beloved mayor and simply put a great man in our community,” Turner said, and cared deeply about families in need.
“I think he would be extremely proud of not only seeing this development open and completed, but to have his name on the development as well.”
Affordable for all
The project was built with the help of a $750,000 provincial grant and in partnership with Homeland Housing, which runs seniors lodges in the St. Albert and Sturgeon County region.
“Paul Krauskopf Court is much needed in Morinville,” said Homeland Housing chief executive officer Raymond Cormie, as the town has long had a need for affordable housing.
A 2009 study by the Town of Morinville found about 135 households were paying more than 30 per cent of their income on rent and therefore were in need of more affordable homes, Cormie noted. Given the current state of the Alberta economy, this number is likely much higher today.
Cormie said Krauskopf Court is priced 10 to 15 per cent below market rates and open to anyone who earns less than $39,000 a year, particularly young families and seniors.
Roxanne Brookes, 62, was one of the 30-odd people who moved into the Court last week and was still hanging up her family pictures when the Gazette spoke with her on Feb. 6.
“It’s been great here,” she said, adding her new place is big, quiet, and comfortable.
Brookes said she would not have been able to afford a market-priced apartment in Morinville on her fixed income, and hopes the building’s energy efficient features will help lower her utility bills.
People who need affordable housing are mostly just regular folks trying to make a living, Brookes said.
“There are a lot of young people starting out as well as older people trying to downsize,” she said, and affordable housing could help them both.
The Court was originally designed to produce as much energy as it used in a year, making it net-zero in terms of energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, said co-designer Stuart Fix of Edmonton’s ReNü Engineering. It ended up being 95 per cent net-zero since the owners changed the design (they got rid of a row of townhouses, which meant fewer solar panels), but it could easily reach net-zero with a few more solar panels.
Fix said the Court used excellent insulation, electric water heaters, heat recovery ventilation, triple-glazed windows, motion sensors, LED lights and other tricks to reduce its energy needs by about 75 per cent. The rest of the building’s energy comes from solar panels, which cover every square inch of the roof.
Also unusual about the Court is its heating plant. Instead of a big boiler in the basement, Paul Krauskopf Court gets its heat from big whirring frost-covered metal boxes on the top floor known as air-source heat pumps.
Think of them as air conditioners you can throw into reverse, said Homeland Housing maintenance operations manager Marc Parent. In the summer, they suck heat out of the inside air and spit it outside, cooling the building. On a frigid -25 C day like last Saturday, they pull energy out from the outside air and push it into the building, heating it.
Parent said he and his friends still couldn’t believe this system does all this without the use of natural gas.
“I’m a former plumber and gasfitter by trade, and I’ve never seen a building like this before. It’s crazy!”
Cormie said these energy efficiency systems would pay for themselves in about eight years and lower the utility bills of the Court’s residents. He said he hopes to see more net-zero affordable homes built in Alberta.
“By building communities such as Paul Krauskopf Court, we’re showing that net-zero is a viable option in Alberta,” Cormie said.
Paul Krauskopf Court is located directly north of the Morinville Community Cemetery.