New Initiative Funds Green, Affordable Homes

May 01, 2005
May/June 2005
A version of this article appears in the May/June 2005 issue of Home Energy Magazine.
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        Last December Denny Park, an affordable housing project in Seattle’s South Lake Union area, broke ground. When completed, the Denny Park Apartments will include 50 residential units over street level commercial space; these units will range from studios to three-bedroom apartments. Denny Park will target families and individuals who earn less than 60% of the area median and who work in the downtown and South Lake Union areas of Seattle.The nonprofit, Low Income Housing Institute, is developing Denny Park, which was designed by Runberg Architectural Group and will be constructed by the Rafn Company.
        The Denny Park Apartments will incorporate many sustainable-design features, including the use of collected storm water for landscape irrigation; abundant daylighting; low-VOC materials; and the orientation of the building along an east-west axis, for maximum solar exposure. The project satisfies 159 different items on the Seattle BuiltGreen Certification Checklist for sustainable design.
        Like more than 100,000 other affordable housing units built each year in the United States, Denny Park will benefit from federal low-income housing tax credits. However, Denny Park will also benefit from a new nationwide building fund that is dedicated to greening affordable housing projects—the Enterprise Foundation’s Green Communities Initiative.
        None of Denny Park’s green features would have been possible without the Green Communities Initiative.Through the initiative, $550 million will be committed to building more than 8,500 green affordable homes over the next five years.The funds will cover financing, grants, and technical assistance for developers interested in building affordable housing.The initiative is working to ensure that the new homes will promote health; conserve energy and natural resources; and provide easy access to jobs, schools, and services.
        “Too many Americans live in unhealthy, inefficient, and poorly sited housing that hinders them from reaching their full potential,” says Bart Harvey, chairman and CEO of The Enterprise Foundation and chairman of the Enterprise Social Investment Corporation.“ Enterprise and the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) have forged an unprecedented alliance of housing, health, and environmental organizations—supported by visionary corporate institutions and foundations— to ensure that smarter, healthier homes are available to Americans with limited incomes.”
        Green Communities is a partnership among the NRDC, The Enterprise Foundation, the American Institute of Architects, and the American Planning Association, with additional funding provided by corporate, philanthropic, and financial organizations.The initiative’s goal is to change the way Americans think, design, and build affordable homes.
        “Building affordable green housing is not a new concept, but Green Communities will broaden the ongoing efforts of developers, states, and cities and make it mainstream,” says Patricia Bauman, vice-chair of NRDC’s board of trustees.“We will assist developers that are already building green housing and encourage hundreds more to come on board. Our project will make thousands of affordable green developments bloom.”
        Some of the initiative’s funding will be channeled toward providing training and technical assistance to housing developers who are interested in greening their businesses. Technical assistance and training with experienced consultants—as well as fund planning activities for green projects and initial architectural, engineering, and environmental review—will be provided or arranged by the initiative.
        Green Communities Initiative will also help government agencies to adopt green practices in their affordable housing programs by working with state agencies to use housing tax credits toward healthy, energy-efficient affordable housing sited near public transportation or vital services.

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