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55 posts categorized "Green"

August 21, 2014

Reducing Water & Energy Use in Affordable Housing

National Housing Trust/Enterprise Preservation Corporation shares smart practices for investing in sustainability

Jared Lang Headshot

When Jared Lang was brought on board to help integrate sustainability into National Housing Trust/Enterprise Preservation Corporation’s (NHT/Enterprise) housing portfolio, he faced a quandary familiar to many affordable housing property managers. Namely, how do you reduce water and energy use on a moderate budget?

The kind of green building projects that tend to capture the public’s attention and imagination often depend on cutting-edge but pricey technologies, like building integrated wind turbines. The appeal certainly makes sense. After all, seeing a wind turbine lazily turning atop a 40-story skyscraper telegraphs sustainability in a way that, say, swapping out light bulbs – even if equally as efficient – does not.

But while these types of projects help to push the envelope on building practices, and move sustainability from best to common practice, their methods and budgets were ill-suited to the needs of NHT/Enterprise housing. NHT/Enterprise is a nonprofit organization that buys, refinances and renovates affordable housing to preserve the homes in gentrifying neighborhoods close to transit. Like many nonprofits, it has moderate funds with which to make efficiency upgrades.

And yet, through Jared’s work, NHT/Enterprise was able to slash the water usage on R Street Apartments, an affordable housing property located in Washington, DC by 40 percent using the equivalent of $10,000 dollars worth of investment.

We say “equivalent costs” because NHT/Enterprise was able to take advantage of a utility rebate that covered almost all of the upfront costs. The annual savings, roughly $27,000, covered the value of the upgrades in a mere six months.

NHT/Enterprise‘s success lies in their relentless attention to small yet critical details.

For example, everyone knows that low-flow showerheads use less water. While a conventional showerhead uses between three and four gallons of water per minute, a low-flow showerhead uses roughly two gallons of water per minute. But NHT/Enterprise’s research went further, asking, “How important is the quality of that showerhead to residents?”

“You can get a cheap low-flow showerhead for as little as $5 [wholesale],” says Jared, “but it’s not going to be a good product. We chose a product that costs $25 [wholesale] that’s equipped with the right aerators.” Aerators add air to the water stream, conserving water while mimicking the feel of a higher water flow. The result, says Jared, “is a product that doesn’t leave you feeling like you’re compromising.” To Jared’s knowledge, the change to water-conserving showerheads has been seamless – NHT/Enterprise has fielded no complaints from residents.

water

While resident behavior around sustainability is what Jared calls “the hardest nut to crack,” (which is why Enterprise Green Communities created resident engagement tools), it’s by connecting to residents’ behavior that NHT/Enterprise realized its biggest savings not only in water, but also in energy.

When residents went to shower, it would take a while for the water to warm up. They would turn the showers on, wander away to tend to a task while the water warmed. This was an efficient use of their time – but an inefficient use of energy intensive hot water. Knowing the situation, NHT/Enterprise invested not just in a low-flow showerhead, but specifically in an Evolve ShowerStart showerhead. Evolve showerheads are unique because they run out the cold water. Once the showerhead reaches 100 degrees Fahrenheit, it slows the flow to a trickle as an auditory signal to residents that the shower is ready for their use. Then, they pull a cord on the showerhead to restart the warm shower.

At R Street Apartments, integrating this unique showerhead saved at least 180,000 gallons of water per year.

By sharing NHT/Enterprise’s experience, Jared hopes to inform other property owners that investing in sustainability doesn’t have to be expensive or difficult. It does have to be smart, and you have to make sure that residents and property managers are engaged in the process, but it’s possible.

Interested in learning more about how to structure your retrofits? See Enterprise’s multifamily retrofit toolkit.

August 11, 2014

August Congressional Recess Advocacy Guide

By Diane Yentel and Emily Cadik

The congressional recess that lasts through August and until September 8 provides an opportunity to show members of Congress returning to their home states and districts what kind of impact affordable housing and community development programs like the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (Housing Credit) and New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) have had in their communities. At the same time, there are a number of pieces of legislation that impact these programs that advocates should be prepared to discuss with members and their staff to increase their odds of passage when Congress returns. 

Read about the status of the following issues, learn how you can help and access advocacy resources in our August Congressional Recess Advocacy Guide:

  • Minimum Housing Credit rate legislation
  • Efforts to extend the NMTC
  • Disaster tax relief legislation
  • Funding for housing and community development programs
  • Rental Assistance Demonstration
  • Pay for Success pilot program
  • Housing Finance Reform
  • Social Impact Bonds

July 15, 2014

Community Developments – Pay for Success Introduced in the House, Citi’s Consumer Relief Obligations

A daily roundup of news impacting housing and Community-Developments-blogcommunities

By Allison Charette, Research Analyst & Felicia Kiefer, Intern

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  • In an effort to better link program funding with outcomes, the federal government is becoming increasingly interested in the “pay for success” approach. Under this model, investors and funders receive return on investments only if programs reach desired outcomes. Representatives Todd Young (R-Ind.) and John Delaney (D-Md.) have introduced a social impact bond bill, which supports this “pay for success” approach. (The Upshot, The New York Times, July 15) And earlier today, Representatives Dennis Ross (R-Fla.), Sean Duffy (R-Wis.), Jim Himes (D-Conn.), Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) and John Delaney (D-Md.) introduced the Pay for Success Affordable Housing Energy Modernization Act. With the support of Enterprise Community Partners, Low Income Investment Fund (LIIF) and Stewards of Affordable Housing for the Future (SAHF), this legislation gives HUD the authority to establish a demonstration program and enter into performance-based agreements that reduce energy and water costs for multifamily housing. Read the joint press release by Enterprise, LIIF and SAHF on this bill’s introduction here.

Continue reading "Community Developments – Pay for Success Introduced in the House, Citi’s Consumer Relief Obligations" »

June 27, 2014

Community Developments – Treasury Announces New Housing Policy, Census Data Reveal Urban Baby Boom

A daily roundup of news impacting housing and Community-Developments-blogcommunities

By Allison Charette, Research Analyst & Felicia Kiefer, Intern

Interested in receiving Community Developments as a daily e-mail? Sign up here 

 

  • On Thursday, Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew announced an expansion of the Obama Administration’s affordable housing policies. The Treasury Department will partner with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to create the Federal Financing Bank (FFB), which will finance FHA-insured mortgages that support the construction or preservation of rental housing. And in an attempt to expand access to mortgage credit, Treasury will extend the Making Home Affordable (MHA) program for one year to “jumpstart” the Private Label Securities (PLS) market. (US Department of the Treasury, June 26)

Continue reading "Community Developments – Treasury Announces New Housing Policy, Census Data Reveal Urban Baby Boom" »

June 26, 2014

Community Developments – The State of the Nation’s Housing 2014, Denver’s Social Impact Bond Program

A daily roundup of news impacting housing and Community-Developments-blogcommunities

By Allison Charette, Research Analyst & Felicia Kiefer, Intern

Interested in receiving Community Developments as a daily e-mail? Sign up here 

 

  • Earlier today, the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University released The State of the Nation’s Housing 2014, an annual assessment of the housing market, demographic trends and the housing challenges faced by US households. As detailed in Enterprise’s @the horizon blog article on the report: despite slight overall improvements, affordability remains a challenge, particularly for low-income renters; growth in the multifamily stock is insufficient to meet the demand for affordable homes; and swift action is necessary to prevent the affordable housing crisis from worsening.

Continue reading "Community Developments – The State of the Nation’s Housing 2014, Denver’s Social Impact Bond Program" »

June 25, 2014

Community Developments – Senate Banking Committee Approves Castro, White House on Impact Investing

A daily roundup of news impacting housing and Community-Developments-blogcommunities

By Allison Charette, Research Analyst & Felicia Kiefer, Intern

Interested in receiving Community Developments as a daily e-mail? Sign up here 

 

  • Earlier today, the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Development voted in favor (16-6) of Julián Castro’s nomination as Secretary for Housing and Urban Development (HUD). If confirmed by the full Senate, Castro will replace current HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, who is nominated to head the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB). (Reuters, June 25

Continue reading "Community Developments – Senate Banking Committee Approves Castro, White House on Impact Investing" »