How this solar-powered modular home could help solve Delaware's affordable housing crisis

Rising mortgage rates and high prices are leaving homes out of reach for many low-to-moderate income residents.

In Delaware, the median home sale price is $350,000, according to the Delaware Association of Realtors. And with interest rates shooting up this week to an average of 6.62%, a monthly payment on a 30-year mortgage on that median-priced home would be about $2,240, Mortgage News Daily said.

But several businesses and agencies are teaming up on a possible solution − a small, modular, super energy-efficient home.

These solar-powered houses not only offer a monthly mortgage that's about a quarter of the payment on a median-priced home, but they could eliminate monthly bills for electricity, heating and cooling.

Energize Delaware is working with Beracah Homes, the Milford Housing Development Corp. and Vermont Energy Investment Corp. on the ZeMod Delaware program, offering lower-priced, solar-powered homes along with help buying them.

Energize Delaware is the state’s sustainable energy utility, a nonprofit that gives grants and low-interest loans to help residents install solar power or energy-efficiency upgrades.

ZeMod stands for zero energy modular, and the program’s services include:

  • homebuyer counseling to become mortgage ready

  • down payment assistance for eligible buyers

  • incentives for energy efficiency and renewable energy of up to $16,500 per home

  • help finding affordable building lots

ZeMod homes have higher-than-normal insulation in the walls, roof and floor; an all-electric heating and cooling system with high-efficiency heat-pump technology; well-insulated, draft-free windows and doors; and high-efficiency appliances and lighting, said Roger Collison, CEO of Beracah Homes, a modular home builder in Greenwood.

One example is a 28-by-43-foot home, 1,204 square feet, with two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a living room, dining room and kitchen.

According to Energize Delaware, a rough estimate for the home’s price is $230,000, including appliances and heating and cooling systems, but not the cost of land, well and septic. Building material costs have been fluctuating and are difficult to predict, the nonprofit reported.

Bringing down those costs are grants and financial incentives for solar panels and energy-efficient homes – along with the available zero-interest down payment loan that has to be paid back only if the home is sold.

The estimated monthly mortgage payment after all incentives and assistance would be about $650 plus a $30 utility connection.

The houses have “zero net" energy costs because when the sun’s not shining, they may need to draw electricity from an electric provider, but there are also times when the solar panels are producing excess electricity that is sold back to the electric provider. Overall, the system should require zero net energy costs, except for the $30 monthly fee to be hooked into the electric grid.

More on solar energy:Delaware county takes steps to protect farmland from mega solar parks

Eligibility requirements

To be eligible for the ZeMod program, the income limit is 120% of the county’s median income. Median income is $87,400 in New Castle, $70,400 in Kent and $68,700 in Sussex.

For information on qualifying, email the Milford Housing Development Corp. home ownership specialist Lucia Campos at

Founded in 1977, the corporation is a nonprofit, affordable housing developer, providing services throughout Delaware including transitional housing, rental housing, new construction and home repairs.

“We are proud to be a partner in this significant housing solution that offers folks another option in getting a quality home with reduced energy costs,” said David W. Moore, Milford Housing Development Corp. president and CEO.

For more information on ZeMod homes, call Energize Delaware at 302-883-3048 or visit

More on lower-priced home solutions:Plan to provide affordable housing in Wilmington

National award-winning design

ZeMod homes were recently honored with two awards from the Department of Energy.

In August, ZeMod received the Zero Energy Ready Home Award for innovative designs on the path to zero-energy-ready homes. In the nation, only two awards were presented in the affordable home category. The other recipient was Habitat for Humanity of North Central Connecticut.

Then on Sept. 20 at the Energy & Environmental Building Alliance High Performance Home Building Summit in Arizona, the Department of Energy presented ZeMod and Beracah Homes with the grand prize in the affordable homes category at the 2022 Housing Innovation Awards. The department said this is the highest honor builders can receive for constructing zero-energy-ready homes.

Tony DePrima, executive director of Energize Delaware, said, the ZeMod program "was designed to create an energy-efficient home for low-to-moderate income families. It makes high utility bills nonexistent.”

From Vermont to Delaware

The ZeMod idea started with Vermont Energy Investment Corp., which was working on a similar program in Vermont focusing on an alternative to traditional mobile homes that would offer a low-price option that was also solar-powered and highly energy-efficient. Vermont Energy contacted Energize Delaware, which asked Beracah about building the homes and the Milford Housing Development Corp. about arranging the financial details for home buyers.

“With a ZeMod home, people can build equity while saving on energy costs,” said Collison, the Beracah Homes CEO. “While the initial costs may be a little higher than a mobile home, Energize Delaware offers incentives for solar power and energy efficiency. Over time, the home owner is going to see a much lower average yearly cost when you factor in utility costs, lot rent and home values after 20 or 30 years.”

Reporter Ben Mace writes about real estate, housing and development. Reach him at

This article originally appeared on Delaware News Journal: Low-cost, solar-powered homes offer solution to affordable home crisis