The single-family rental industry is slowly making its homes more energy-efficient.
The Ponds at Walden Woods in Plant City, Fla., looks a lot more like a classic suburban tract than a blueprint for sustainable design. It’s full of new three- and four-bedroom homes—their prominent garages indicating how residents get around here—30 minutes from downtown Tampa. The Thoreauvian branding and solar-powered amenity center seem less like a come-on to eco-minded house hunters and more like a finger in the eye to critics of suburban sprawl.
But American Homes 4 Rent says the community (which got through Hurricane Ian with only minor damage) demands a second look. The landlord was founded a decade ago, when it acquired Sun Belt homes in the aftermath of the US foreclosure crisis, then shifted focus to building communities of rental houses like Walden Woods. It now owns about 60,000 single-family rental homes across the country, and for the past five years it’s been tweaking designs of houses it builds itself to make them more durable and energy-efficient. The company says it could eventually operate its entire portfolio at net-zero.