An innovative new housing concept in Minneapolis is helping homeless people get off the streets and into clean, modern apartments that are not only affordable, but also environmentally friendly.

EcoVillage is a four-story apartment and townhouse complex developed by a nonprofit group called Project for Pride in Living (PPL). The organization has been working for more than 10 years, primarily in north Minneapolis — one of the toughest inner-city sections of the Twin Cities.

More than 75 families now live in EcoVillage. Some of the residents were previously living on the streets or moving from shelter to shelter before gaining a coveted EcoVillage slot. The new residents still pay rent, but at rates far lower than average for Minneapolis. Rents range from $675 a month to $995. The average rent for a two-room apartment in this section of Minneapolis is $1,200 a month.

To qualify for a place in EcoVillage, residents must earn less than half of the median average income for the area.

As its name implies, the design of the EcoVillage complex is equipped with a number of energy-saving features and environmentally-friendly designs, including a roof carpeted with real grass. It also sports a high-tech rainwater filtration system. This is used to provide for a series of rain gardens spread throughout a common/community area for residents.

EcoVillage also has a playground, an outdoor picnic site and car parking that is underground – and heated – a real plus for bitter-cold Minnesota winters.

The entire design of the apartment and townhouse complex is “solar-panel ready.” The buildings incorporate advanced insulation techniques to make them extremely energy efficient.

The project has been called an “oasis of hope” amid one of the “toughest sections of a major American city.” PPL has plans to expand EcoVillage on an ongoing basis to meet the enormous demand for affordable housing.