First U.S. National Effort for Healthy, Eco-Friendly Affordable Housing

First U.S. National Effort for Healthy, Eco-Friendly Affordable Housing

A premier national affordable housing provider and a leading national environmental group has launched the Green Communities Initiative, a five-year, $550-million commitment to build more than 8,500 environmentally friendly affordable homes across the country.

The initiative, the first of its kind in national and financial scope, will offer financing, grants and technical assistance to developers to build affordable housing that promotes health, conserves energy and natural resources and provides easy access to jobs, schools and services.

The Green Communities Initiative is a partnership of The Enterprise Foundation/Enterprise Social Investment Corporation (ESIC) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), along with the American Institute of Architects, the American Planning Association, and top corporate, financial and philanthropic organizations. Over time, the initiative hopes to transform the way Americans think about, locate, design and build affordable homes.

"Too many Americans live in unhealthy, inefficient and poorly sited housing that hinders them from reaching their full potential," said Bart Harvey, chairman and CEO of The Enterprise Foundation and chairman of ESIC. "Enterprise and NRDC have forged an unprecedented alliance of housing, health and environmental organizations -- supported by visionary corporate institutions and foundations -- to ensure smarter, healthier homes are available to Americans with limited incomes."

"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," said 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 onboard. Our project will make thousands of affordable green developments bloom."

The initiative also will provide expert training and technical assistance to help housing developers "go green." For example, it will provide or help arrange technical assistance and training with experienced consultants, as well as fund planning activities for green projects -- such as feasibility analyses and market studies -- and initial architectural, engineering and environmental reviews.

In addition, the Green Communities Initiative will encourage government agencies at the local, state and federal level to "green" their affordable housing programs. For example, Enterprise, NRDC and other partners will work with state agencies to dedicate a significant portion of their federal housing tax credits to healthy, energy-efficient affordable housing sited near public transportation or vital services.

One of green housing's major selling points is that it means healthier homes. "For many families, asthma, injuries and lead poisoning are just symptoms of the underlying problem," said Dr. Megan Sandel, a nationally recognized expert on housing's impact on children's health at the Boston University School of Medicine. "Inadequate housing is the real disease. Safe, decent, affordable housing is the best preventive medicine low-income families can get. This initiative will ensure that thousands of homes and the children that reside in them are safer and healthier."

The Enterprise Foundation/Enterprise Social Investment Corporation and NRDC are joined in the Green Communities Initiative by the following partners, who have made significant investments in the program through Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Equity, grants, technical assistance, training, policy advocacy, and housing development: the American Institute of Architects, the American Planning Association, Bank of America, Blue Moon Fund, BP America, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Global Green USA, The Home Depot Foundation, JPMorgan Chase, The Kresge Foundation, Low Income Housing Institute, Merrill Lynch Community Development Company, M&T Bank, National Center for Healthy Housing and Washington Mutual. The U.S. Green Building Council strongly supports the Green Communities Initiative as well.