Topics: Costs of housing and passive energy, housing and parking costs, HUD affordability for moderate incomes, costs of car ownership

Living Costs

Living costs consist of the combined costs of housing, energy and transportation. College Heights reduces the cost of all three.

Housing costs are substantially lower than conventional construction because of four-square construction, three-story row housing, integrated roofs and many other cost savings.

When someone buys a house in College Heights, they get much more than a house; they get HOA assets and services and a sustainable transportation system. The price cover the cost of HOA assets which include the Village Center with the busway, the Village Square with a small fountain, a small grocery store, a café, and a large Community Center. On clear days, the café has a magnificent view of the San Francisco Bay area from San Jose to Marin. The Community Center would include mailing services, ATM, a large, flexible room for events, performances, meetings, banquets, and fitness; a few small high tech offices, potential child care room, bicycle repair shop, reading room/library, service desk, office for HOA management, and two on-site manager apartment units. The price includes the Foothill Trail, pocket parks and the landscaping.

HOA dues cover the costs of maintenance and operations.

Energy capital costs are higher, but, operating costs are so low that energy costs overall are lower than traditional/conventional housing. The project uses no fossil fuels and is net-zero on the grid by using passive and active solar energy.

Transportation costs are low because most trips can be made by walking, bicycling, the Village Bus and other mobility features made possible by compact development and location on the corridor between the CSUEB campus and the BART station. The auto is needed for few trips, which can be made by private or public car. Public cars are Lyft/Uber, car share, car rental and taxi. Major savings can be achieved by not owning a private car, which is possible living in College Heights.

Costs of Housing and Passive Energy

Unit Type# Units by Typesq ftTotal sq ftUnit sale price
studio2451212,288 $       330,831
1 bed181704127,424 $       443,520
2 Bed 1 bath9793690,792 $       571,410
2 Bed 2 bath971,080104,760 $       646,235
3 Bed Flat1101,360149,600 $       781,738
3 Bed TH801,536122,880 $       860,160
4 Bed TH1081,728186,624 $       939,766
5 Bed TH352,11273,920 $    1,080,369
Estimated sales price of units, November 2023

Passive Energy

Heat retention is built into the building envelope. Passive energy design reduces the cost of active energy. It keeps warm air inside in cold weather and hot air outside in hot weather.

Three-story cross section. Three story row townhouses have the best cross section of depth and height for energy conservation. The depth of a building is influenced by how far sunlight can penetrate into a room, which, in a row house, is from the windows in front to those in back. Rooms not needing light, like bathrooms, closets, laundry rooms, hallways, and stairways, can be in the center, while living, dining, and bedrooms which need light from the outside are designed to be in the front and back. Room depths in the project range from 12 to 16 feet, with overall building depths of about 32 feet.

All units are three stories and 32 feet high, creating a square cross-section of depth to height. A square building is more energy conserving than a tall rectangular building which loses heat off the sides, and shorter rectangular buildings which lose more heat through the roof.

Solar roof area and living space. The roof area used for solar energy can serve about three floors of living space below. One and two story units have surplus roof area and higher buildings do not have enough for net zero.

Insulation. Abutting side walls provide insulation from side-by-side construction, allowing for thicker walls and more insulation. The building code allows 2×6 inch studs on two-foot centers. Radiant barrier roof sheathing can reflect heat both ways, keeping heat inside in winter and reflecting heat outward in summer. The total result of these measures is high insulation, R-30 or higher.

Windows and doors. High-efficiency windows avoid major heat-loss or gain. College Heights’ design calls for high-quality, double-paned, sound-rated windows with Low-E coatings and fiberglass frames.

Tight construction seals leaks and stops air from escaping. Tight construction of the building envelope is assessed with a blower door based on the amount of resistance to air pressure.

Heat Recovery Ventilators. Tight construction results in stagnant air and excess humidity, requiring Heat Recovery Ventilators to circulate with outside air. Then, to recover heat, the ventilators have baffles for heat exchange. Recovering heat from the out-going air reduces the ventilation energy requirement by up to 80%. The ventilators also filter dust from indoor air.

South windows. Large windows face south so the sun shines on the floor inside. The flooring would be a thermal mass designed to absorb heat. Solar panels outside above the windows increase shade in summer while letting the lower winter sun come in.

Housing and Parking Costs

Cost of Land

Reduced area for ROW and efficient lot and building design combine to increase the number of units on the same land area, reducing the land cost per residential unit.

Cost of Right-of-Way (ROW)

Suburban ROWs run from 40 to 56 feet wide. College Heights ROW is currently designed so all walkways are 20 feet wide, reducing land needs from 50 feet by 60 percent.

Cost of parking

Parking, and the streets to reach it, takes up land area, and is costly to build.

Of particular interest, is the high cost of “parking under,” which is parking built within the unit, like a garage, which gets parking off the street and into the house. HAPA’s analysis quantified these issues, testing various street parking, surface parking, and parking under concepts. We compared a Cars Plan with narrow streets (36 feet wide; 8-foot parking lanes; 10-foot travel lanes) to a Walkway Plan with walkways 20 feet wide. The areas for parks, setbacks, floorplans, and building height were otherwise kept the same. We also considered a plan with parking under. with one space per unit for 2-bedroom condominiums, and with two spaces for townhouses. Streets with parking and parking under caused a 36 percent reduction in the number of units possible— 468 units versus 732 for the walkway plan.

Construction cost per square foot for parking under is higher than for living space, raising the cost of living space and reducing its area. An analysis of building costs using for 2019 found that parking under increased costs for a three-bedroom townhouse for the same living space. The unit cost went from $460,800 to $653,400, a 42 percent increase.

College Heights addresses the parking issue with podium parking. First, no land area is taken away from housing and other amenities. Second, stairways down to the parking area create a number of convenient access points. Third, the volume of the parking structure reduces the amount of cut-fill needed. Fourth, residents pay the cost of parking through leases, reducing the cost of living space – voluntarily paying only for parking they need.

Cost of Lot and building

Linear infrastructure, number of lots and units

Wider lots typical of suburbia increase linear ROW and utility costs per unit College Heights lots have row housing with abutting walls or common walls and no side yards. These features, combined with narrow lots, increases the number of units per mile of ROW and reduces the costs per unit for ROW and street utilities.

Double loading

College Heights has units on both sides of the walkways, reducing linear costs per unit, compared with building on only one side.

Cost of Building construction

Three-story construction is not only efficient for energy but also for construction. Wood frame construction up to five or six stories is less expensive than other technologies as well as being strong, fast, and versatile. Wood frame from three stories has an optimal cost for amount of living area covered by a roof. College Heights uses three stories because it is more aesthetically acceptable than higher buildings and avoids the need for elevators. Three story townhouses have become acceptable in the Hayward area housing market.

Computer-aided design (CAD) will be used to increase efficiencies in construction and reduce waste of lumber and other building materials.

Common utility chases for co-locating plumbing, electrical, and HVAC.

Common walls of row houses, unlike the exterior walls, can be thin, using 2×4 stud framing with no loss of insulation between units for soundproofing.

Four-square foundations reduce costs compared to building extra corners in non-rectangular units.

Switchback stairways in some floor plans deliver people to a central hallway midway between the units, avoiding the extra space needed by a straight “shotgun” stairway that delivers people to one end and requires a long hallway to bring people to the other end.

Two-foot dimensions reduce waste when using eight-foot studs.

Simple floor plans minimize the footprint of interior walls within the overall floor area, getting more living space than floor plans with extra walls. The wall area is kept to about five percent of the gross floor area.

These features discussed above save about 20 percent on housing construction costs.

Cost of Energy

The passive and active energy systems have high capital costs, but low operating costs with significant life cycle savings and benefits for the environment. The cost of energy in College Heights will be lower than typical PG&E energy costs.

Location efficiency reduces income needed for mortgage

The “Location-efficient mortgage” lowers the income needed to qualify for a loan by recognizing that lower mobility costs free up income to pay the mortgage.

HUD Affordability for Moderate Incomes

Affordability is determined by an analysis following HUD guidelines. For the College Heights project, the upper limit for moderate income is 120% of the median income in Alameda County.

The guidelines restrict housing costs to 35% of income. Housing costs are defined as mortgage, property taxes, insurance, and HOA dues. The mortgage estimate assumes 10 percent down, 30 years, and 7.61 percent interest (2023 rates at the time of this writing). The property tax estimate is based on The Alameda county tax rate is 1.2% of assessed value.

The table below is based on unit type, household size, purchase price, price after 10% down, the current fixed interest rate over 30 years, the resulting mortgage amortization, HOA dues, property taxes, homeowners insurance, total living expenses, and the income limit for moderate income.

College Heights Affordability and HUD limits
All Three = HOA dues, Taxes and Insurance
TypeMortgageAll Three= CostH’d sizeHUD LimitQualifies at
7.61% | 5.00%
Studio$ 2,104$ 613$ 2,7171$ 3,437yesyes
1-bed$ 2,821$ 774$ 3,5952$ 3,927yesyes
2-bed 1-bath$ 3,635$ 958$ 4,5923$ 4,417noyes
2-bed 2-bath$ 4,111$ 1,065$ 5,1763$ 4,907noyes
3-bed flat$ 4,973$ 1,260$ 6,2334$ 5,300noyes
3-bed TH$ 5,471$ 1,374$ 6,8454$ 5,692noyes
4-bed TH$ 5,978$ 1,489$ 7,4675$ 6,086noyes
5-bed TH$ 6,872$ 1,695$ 8,5676$ 6,477nono

The City of Hayward Affordable Housing Ordinance requires that 15 percent of units be affordable to moderate income households. At 2023 interest rates, we found that only studios and 1-beds qualified for moderate income buyers, but that is 28% of total units, more than meeting Hayward’s requirements. We achieve it without subsidy, but with aggressive use of cost-reducing policies.

The number of units qualifying is highly sensitive to mortgage interest rates. Many more units become affordable with a 2.61 reduction in the interest rate. We looked into what a lower interest rate could do for affordability. We calculated the housing prices based on 5% mortgage interest rate and discovered that all the units from studios to four bedroom qualified for moderate incomes. Obviously, the interest rates make a huge difference for affordability and vary more than the price of the house, the insurance, or the property tax.

Cost of car ownership

The discussion above assumes the resident owns a car and leases a space. College Heights is designed to have ample mobility without owning a private car and encouraging bicycling, transit, and use of public cars. The design of the project makes it easy to live without a car. The costs of mobility in College Heights are in the HOA dues and using public cars, which add up to considerably less than car ownership. An estimate of savings shown in the table below is over 8,000 per year.

The parking spot lease rate alone is not a big deterrent to car ownership, but the cost of owning a car is. For many young urbanities, it’s too expensive, unnecessary, and even inconvenient. A large number of people in the central Bay Area rely on walking, biking, ride services, and transit. College Heights has a cost of mobility below that of suburbia while providing comparable mobility.

Cost savings from car-free living
Monthly savings from not leasing one parking space$90
Monthly savings from not owning a car$900
Monthly average cost of TDMMinus $102
Monthly possible costs of 8 to 10 rides in a public carMinus $200
Monthly benefit$688
Yearly benefit$8,256

In a larger context, reducing car ownership has benefits for society: reduced car-related infrastructure costs, pavement operating and maintenance costs, traffic, and external costs.

College Heights will provide 732 units at a much lower cost than suburbia. The project accomplishes this with dramatic cost reductions from podium parking, active energy costs out of housing costs, and from green energy.