Five Questions With: Jennifer Hawkins

Updated at 12:30 p.m.

Jennifer Hawkins is the executive director of ONE Neighborhood Builders, the developer of the soon-to-begin Sheridan Small Homes, a development of affordable, net-zero homes in the Olneyville neighborhood of Providence.

The five standalone condos, which are two bedrooms each, were designed by Jonathon Knowles, a professor at Rhode Island School of Design. The homes will be built by Building Futures, using apprentice labor. A groundbreaking is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. on Oct. 28.

PBN: Is this the first net-zero home in Providence, and what does that mean?

HAWKINS: I think it’s the first affordable [one], targeted to low- and moderate-income households. A deed-restricted property. It’s a passive home. That means the systems and the siting and the materials of the home are done in such a way as to use the natural environment. We have triple-pane windows. We have an all-electric system. All of these things make the home extremely efficient.

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PBN: Tell me what the Sheridan Small Homes are, and how small are they?

HAWKINS: We decided to call them Sheridan Small Homes because they really are small. They’re 825 square feet. That is smaller than a traditional, single-family home. … Historically, we’ve built small starter homes. In recent times, anything less than 1,000 square feet wasn’t really built, and I think that we should go back in that direction.

PBN: What is the advantage of a smaller house and footprint?

HAWKINS: The land upon which we are constructing these condominiums is three-quarters of an acre. But yet we are still able to do five single homes. So, we are more densely using land. And because they’re smaller homes, there [are] less materials that you’re using to construct the home. And for this property, because of the passive and net-zero standards, we’re able to keep the construction costs at a nice level … [and] increase the efficiency of the project.

PBN: How are they going to be occupied when completed?

HAWKINS: It’s a condominium development, so there will be five units within the condominium. They will have shared amenities. Within the condominium fees will be costs for snow removal and landscaping. The condominium agent will own the solar panels. The panels will produce electricity to benefit the five properties. There will be a range of [sale] prices. There are slight differences in the homes and the styles of the homes. Two will be sold for families not exceeding 80% of [area median income]. Three will be sold to households not exceeding 120% of AMI. Right now, we’re saying between $135,000 and $165,000. A year from now, when we put them on the market, we’ll figure that out.

PBN: Do you already have people inquiring about them?

HAWKINS: Yes, we do. After we break ground, we will allow people to make a reservation. We are talking with our attorneys about a document that would allow people to put $100 [down] for a reservation of a home. We can’t do a purchase and sale agreement until the homes are built. … We’ve never done a lottery before. … We may end up having to do a lottery.

Mary MacDonald is a staff writer for the PBN. Contact her at