Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Guest Blogger Dana Bourland on "This Earth Day: An Opportunity for Affordable Housing Advocates"

In addition to delivering health, economic and environmental benefits to low-income families and communities, green housing creates new opportunities for advocates of affordable housing.

The first opportunity is to secure additional funds through traditional housing policies and programs. In 2008, the House of Representatives passed the Green Resources for Energy Efficient Neighborhoods Act (The GREEN Act, H.R. 6078), sponsored by Representative Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo. The GREEN Act’s major provisions would: 1) Increase green building and energy efficiency requirements in federally assisted housing; 2) Authorize block grants, loan funds and rental subsidies for green residential development and rehabilitation; 3) Encourage Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to finance more energy efficient mortgages; 4) Direct the Federal Housing Administration to insure $1 billion worth of energy efficient homes; and 5) Provide resources for community-based organizations to create green affordable developments.

The second opportunity is to leverage funds included in the recently enacted American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The federal economic stimulus package contained substantial new investments for green development, especially to make existing properties more energy efficient.

Third, the Obama Administration and Congress are expected to make a major effort to revamp the nation’s energy policy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the next few years. These policy priorities have huge stakes for low-income families. Hundreds of billions of dollars of public investments will be made, much of which will be directed to the built environment.

Finally, Congress will rewrite the highway and transit bill this year or next. Transportation is the largest discretionary spending program at $48 billion a year. How and where these funds are spent at the local level has huge impacts on housing affordability.

What Advocates Can Do
  • Support the Green Act.
  • Ensure investments in green affordable homes are a priority in energy and climate change policy.
  • Secure funding for affordable homes near transit in the transportation bill.
  • Reach out to environmental, energy and transit advocates to find common ground to create a stronger progressive coalition for green communities for all

As Vice President of Green Initiatives at Enterprise Community Partners, Dana directs all aspects of Green Communities, including strategic planning and program development; planning and construction grants; technical assistance and training support; research and evaluation; and public policy advocacy. Dana works with Enterprise’s financial affiliates to package and integrate the delivery of various forms of project financing to Green Communities developments, including equity investments and redevelopment loans. She also co-leads environmental strategy for the national nonprofit organization and serves as managing director of the Green Communities Offset Fund™.

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