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Courtney Koslow, C’99

Development Director at Beacon Communities

Somerville, MA

Psychology Major, Urban Studies Minor

I’m an affordable housing developer and I focus specifically on housing that is designed to move beyond being simply sustainable to being regenerative. My work is at the intersection of affordable housing, climate change and social justice.

I want to be able to demonstrate the positive ways that we can shift our systems to align with natural systems, draw down carbon, empower a local workforce, and put our survival needs back into our own hands.

The thing that keeps me motivated is finding positive ways to come at the issues. Instead of trying to build a building that’s less bad, I’m trying to build a building that generates more power than it uses with battery storage for the building located in a car that can then also be shared by the community, and thinking about different ways to use waste and water to power and fertilize a greenhouse that provides food for the residents. I want to be able to demonstrate the positive ways that we can shift our systems to align with natural systems, draw down carbon, empower a local workforce, and put our survival needs back into our own hands.

One of the most rewarding pieces of the work I do are the moments when I get to meet the residents who move in. There have been instances where I’ve gotten to know residents who have been victims of domestic abuse and this was their way to have stable, safe and decent housing—a brand new, healthy, energy efficient building in a good location, in a good city. The other thing I find really rewarding is being able to merge my passions for climate change and environmental activism with meaningful affordable housing work.

The moment at Penn that was a turning point for me was actually my very first week during freshmen orientation. It was a volunteer day and we went out to help kids at a community center in North Philly apply to college. As we got off the bus, there was a tent city in a vacant lot where people were protesting the lack of safe, decent affordable housing in a neighborhood filled with boarded up homes. I was just so intrigued. What was this about? Why was that the case? And it just put the seed in my head. Experiencing so viscerally the economic disparities just blocks away in Philly was hugely impactful. — October 3, 2018 • Photo by Alex Schein

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