Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Guest Blogger Madeline Fraser-Cook: Building Sustainable Communities

As the nation's largest community development support organization, the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) believes that greener communities are key to building sustainable communities of choice and opportunity, which provide good places to work, do business and raise children. This requires investments in sustainability at the neighborhood level that:
  • Preserve family income and wealth by lowering utility bills and increasing home values;
  • Connect neighborhoods to green job and business opportunities;
  • Provide schools with better learning environments, and stronger operating margins; and
  • Support healthier lifestyles by exposing residents to fewer toxic substances, lessening respiratory problems, improving recreational space, and increasing access to healthy foods.
Since 2004, LISC's Green Development Center has provided financial resources, technical information, partnership opportunities, education, and policy support to LISC programs and the community development field. In addition to investments in commercial and community facilities, LISC has invested more than $665 million, resulting in over 20,000 units of green affordable housing.

Our Green Development Center ensures that we are integrating green best practices into our comprehensive community development approach. We recognize that green cannot be an add-on to the projects we support. In order to green projects most cost-effectively, environmentally sensitive strategies must be a programmatic component of the project. We also are cognizant of the fact that, for many people, there is still a learning curve when it comes to green. That is why we offer a variety of services to help community developers choose the best greening approach for their projects. In addition to grants, equity and loans, we offer technical assistance through Web-based seminars, publications and direct assistance to our local partners. Green at LISC is also much broader than affordable housing. It includes green jobs programming, support for greening schools, technical assistance around improving the environmental performance of early childhood education centers, and an emerging effort to help small businesses to green their operations.

LISC believes that effective community development goes hand in hand with improving the environmental conditions in the neighborhoods in which we work. This approach not only saves dollars through energy and water efficiency, but it also provides less quantifiable benefits such as improved health outcomes and a more general sense of wellbeing that comes with living in vibrant, aesthetically pleasing, economically viable neighborhoods. For more information on LISC’s green work, please visit: www.lisc.org/gdc

Madeline Fraser-Cook is the director of LISC’s Green Development Center.

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