To Elizabeth Bonner, the single greatest thing about her new home is the serenity she feels as she sits on her covered back porch, listening to the water as it rolls over the rocks that line the creek bed bordering the back of her property.
She listens not only to the water, but to the frogs as well. Bonner would tell you it is like music to her ears. The setting is as beautiful and peaceful as a scene from a Norman Rockwell painting. Her new home, financed in part by USDA Rural Development, is nestled between two tree-covered hillsides on a gravel roadway that leads to the property where she spent the first 18 years of her life. For Bonner, she is not just getting a home of her own – she is coming home.
Bonner, a 73-year-old widow, made the decision to purchase her home in the spring of 2011. She had been renting an apartment in the city of Vanceburg, but was not happy with the lack of privacy, not having any green space and the steps she had to climb in order to get to the laundry room.
“I wasn’t born in town and I don’t like living in town. I like the country and the feel of this place,” said Bonner. “In town I had no privacy or freedom. This place is me … I love the country. I’m back home.”
She was initially attracted to her new home’s location because of its proximity to her family’s former homestead. Bonner is pleased with every aspect of it. She proudly shows off the beautiful interior, which she helped design, with a smile that cannot be contained.
Bonner’s father died when she was three years old and her mother raised her and her siblings. Although she was concerned about taking on the responsibility of a mortgage at her age, Bonner is clearly her mother’s daughter and did not let that stop her from realizing her dream of being a homeowner.
Little did she know the significance of the home she would eventually end up purchasing. It is setting the standard for affordable, energy-efficient homes in the state of Kentucky.
The new home, located in Vanceburg, will use 75 percent less energy than a standard newly constructed home. For a senior citizen on a fixed income, the reduced utility bills will make this new home affordable. This reduction is accomplished using Passive House principles – one of the highest standards of energy-efficient construction – and includes nearly air-tight construction, superior insulation and highly-efficient equipment such as triple pane windows that provide passive solar heat in the winter, an energy recovery ventilator system and a hybrid heat pump water heater. The home also contains an array of eight solar panels on the roof that provide most of the needed electricity through a clean, renewable energy source.
To make this project a reality, Rural Development worked with a host of strategic partners, including People’s Self-Help Housing, Inc., the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Federation of Appalachian Housing Enterprises (FAHE), to make the home affordable.