Friday, January 29, 2010

NHC 2009 "Pioneering Housing Strategies" Award Finalist: Stewards of Affordable Housing for the Future

While the construction of new, green homes will help provide long-term environmental and economic benefits to communities nationwide, the industry must also remember the importance of upgrading the existing housing stock to be more energy efficient.

For its role in addressing this need, NHC Member Partner Stewards of Affordable Housing for the Future’s (SAHF) was named as a NHC 2009 “Pioneering Housing Strategies” Award finalist. Specifically, the organization’s Energy Conservation Initiative is focused on helping upgrade and retrofit existing buildings. This multi-pronged initiative was created to address the full range of challenges associated with carrying out this agenda – from planning and implementation, to lack of data and financing.

To start, SAHF evaluated utility costs experienced by properties in its portfolio from around the nation. To complement the data gathering effort and build support for funding, SAHF designed a series of programs to provide highly subsidized retrofits at the outset. And because of the effort's scale, to migrate over time to financing with shallow or no grants and affordable debt to be serviced in large part by savings over time in lower utility bills.

While the initiative began by focusing on properties in SAHF’s portfolio, the organization’s work fueled its efforts at the national level. Specifically, SAHF collaborated with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Congress to promote and create wider funding opportunities for retrofits, including policies to retrofit HUD multifamily properties.

The GREEN Act, passed in September 2008, included a title developed by SAHF to temporarily increase section 8 rental subsidies to amortize part of the cost of loans taken out to finance energy retrofits. And, ultimately, due in part to SAHF’s work, the 2009 American Reinvestment and Recovery Act included a designated $250 million for the Office of Affordable Housing Preservation to provide program grants and loans to green HUD housing.

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