It takes a lot to build affordable, energy-efficient apartments on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, but Mary Spink, the executive director of the Lower East Side People's Mutual Housing Association, knows it's worth the effort.

The proof: The group's last 60-unit project had 12,000 applicants, and its current $11.9 million, 44-unit project, called Diversity Houses, has 4,000 applicants on a waiting list for a lottery when it opens this summer.

Courtesy Lower East Side People's Mutual Housing Association
Courtesy Lower East Side People's Mutual Housing Association

Seven of the one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments will be rented to families earning less than 30 percent of the area median income, while the rest will go to those who earn no more than 50 percent.

For 2005, a family of four would earn an average of $25,000 a year.

The environmentally friendly project also promises cheaper energy bills.

"I am willing to put the time and a little extra money into having people working on our project who will make sure we are building it correctly," Spink says of her "green" thumb.

Spink's "people" on this project is Henry Gifford, a contractor for New York City-based architect Chris Benedict. Gifford said Diversity will shave 30 percent to 40 percent off typical energy bills through techniques such as adding a thermostat to every room and placing the boiler on the roof.

"In (the association's) first project, fuel costs an average of $410 per apartment per year," Gifford says. "That is obscenely low." Jokes Spink, who is already looking for a new affordable, green project: "We believe in obscenity when it comes to saving energy."

–Erin Massey