Community Commitment
January 30, 2024

First-of-its-kind energy efficient, affordable housing gets boost from Xcel Energy

Hillcrest Village in Northfield, MN benefits from $250,000 in rebates

As the first Net Zero Energy affordable housing community in the country, Hillcrest Village in Northfield, Minnesota, is an innovative approach to the twin challenges of the housing crisis and climate change. Funded in part by Xcel Energy’s Efficient New Home Construction (ENHC) program, the 17-unit, fully electric development was built to standards that exceed local energy efficiency code requirements, maximizing cost-savings and energy conservation.  
But for residents like Katya Block and her son Cameron, the appeal of Hillcrest Village comes down to something even simpler: it’s home.  
“My son loves it here,” said Block. “He plays with the neighbor kids, and I know he’s safe and happy.” 


Katya Block lives in Hillcrest Village with her son, Cameron.
Hillcrest Village, which welcomed its first residents this fall, offers a mix of free emergency shelter, subsidized supportive housing and workforce market-rate housing in Rice County. Northfield nonprofit Community Action Center (CAC) took the lead on the project and kept sustainability at the fore of the planning.  
“[Northfield] is small enough that we all know each other, but we experience the same challenges everyone else does, from affordable housing to homelessness to climate change,” said Scott Wopata, executive director of CAC. “The question became ‘What if we actually took the time to try to do something about these dilemmas?’” 
To prioritize affordable, efficient and sustainable energy use, CAC worked with leaders from the construction and environmental community to design Hillcrest Village. The homes were built with air-tight construction, cold climate air source heat pumps, high-efficiency electric water heaters, extra insulation and thicker walls, triple pane windows and heat recovery ventilation. “It meant a lot to me to find a comfortable place for my son that’s also environmentally friendly,” Block said. 
It costs more to build with energy efficiency, but Xcel Energy helped with a $250,000 rebate through its Efficient New Home Construction (ENHC) program.  
The ENHC program connects home buyers with resources to build a truly efficient new home and provides incentives for builders to exceed local energy efficiency code requirements by at least 10%. Homes are evaluated before, during and after construction to verify that the home abides by national energy ratings standards. 

In addition to the Net Zero certification, the property will soon be home to new solar panels, slated to be installed in 2024. Once solar installation is complete, 100 percent of the energy used on site will be generated by an on-site solar field. 
“Hillcrest Village is truly a model for how we can work with communities and partners to find innovative ways for residents to use cleaner energy, be more energy efficient and save money, “ said Emmett Romine, Xcel Energy’s vice president of Customer Solutions and Innovation. “We are always looking for partners to make the most of our existing energy programs and help us find new ways to meet our customers’ energy needs. Hillcrest Village is a success story for Northfield and the region, and we’re proud of the partnerships that made it happen.” 
For now, each resident pays $20 per month for all electric and heat costs. Each unit uses 62% less energy than other units on the market and will save about $1,300 each year in energy costs. Any income from the project goes toward providing emergency housing options. 
“This project proves that affordable housing can be done with energy efficiency built into it,” Wopata says. “It takes a lot of work and new thinking. People see this a source of pride, and hopefully it can be replicated elsewhere in the country.” 
Learn more about Hillcrest Village at