Funds Created For Green Affordable Housing

New leadership at the Department of Housing and Urban Development is energizing support for green affordable housing through pilot programs backed by federal assistance.

One beneficiary, New York City’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development, has partnered with not-for-profit partners to develop a new “green” pilot program that aims to rehabilitate a number of small bank-owned properties using green, energy-efficient standards and practices.

“The green retrofit program announced today will provide affordable energy efficient homes while also strengthening neighborhoods hit by foreclosures,” HUD secretary Shaun Donovan said while addressing “Green and Affordable: Sustainable Strategies for the New Housing Marketplace,” a conference on expanding the nation’s stock of green affordable housing. “HUD is competitively awarding another $2 billion in neighborhood stabilization funds through the Recovery Act and we hope that sustainable homes will be a feature of that investment in many neighborhoods across the country.”

So far, pursuing Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s $7.5 billion New Housing Marketplace Plan that will create and preserve affordable housing for half a million New Yorkers, HPD has developed green and affordable homes for low- and moderate-income families.

Conference participation by over 200 public and private housing professionals, housing development, finance, nonprofits and academia indicate growing interest in implementing “green” solutions in the marketplace. Popular issues included innovative strategies for financing projects, techniques to promote healthy indoor environments, green maintenance practices and the role of city government in building green affordable housing and environmentally responsible commercial real estate.

According to Mr. Donovan, “President Obama has charged federal agencies to work together to build sustainable, affordable communities.”

HPD continues to apply green standards and practices to as many projects as possible, HPD commissioner Rafael Cestero said. “I believe that the opportunities are limitless and range from small one-to-four family houses that we are retrieving from the mire of foreclosure to retrofitting existing multifamily buildings to large, architecturally significant projects such as New Housing New York, better known as Via Verde. As we are seeing in this conference today, there are innovative green and affordable programs across the country. Our challenge now is to sustain the progress we are making.” Among the programs is HPD’s newest venture into greening affordable housing in neighborhoods hard hit by the foreclosure crisis.

The Neighborhood Stabilization Program provides emergency assistance to state and local governments to acquire and redevelop foreclosed properties that might otherwise become sources of abandonment and blight, authorized under the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008. An additional $2 billion in neighborhood stabilization money will be awarded by HUD through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, HUD said.

Using federal funds, HPD and its nonprofit partner, Restored Homes Housing Development Fund Corp., created the real estate-owned program to acquire, rehabilitate and sell bank-foreclosed one-to-four family homes in New York to qualified low-and moderate-income families.

RHHD and HPD are working with Enterprise Community Partners Inc. on a pilot program to rehabilitate a number of REO properties using green, energy efficient standards. It will begin with five homes, as part of Enterprise’s Green Communities initiative, which uses non-toxic construction materials and reduces the amount of construction debris by employing highly efficient waste management and recycling techniques in construction and demolition.

Enterprise Community Partners regional operating officer, Keith Fairey, sees benefits in the fact that these funds will help ensure that neighborhoods at risk of disinvestment because of foreclosure remain thriving communities.

To secure funding for public housing programs, HUD is collaborating with the Department of Energy to coordinate federal weatherization efforts in an effort “to spur a new home energy efficiency industry that could create tens of thousands of jobs.”

The Department of Transportation and HUD are in the process of creating an interagency task force “to better coordinate federal transportation and housing investments” and identify best strategies for affordable housing near employment opportunities, lower transportation costs and shorter travel times, and safe, livable, healthy communities, HUD said.