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Moving on Up: The Growth of Green Affordable Housing

Published on Written by Posted in Greenbuild
Photo credit: USGBC
Photo credit: USGBC

There has been a lot of talk recently on both the national and local levels about the value, applicability, and overall effectiveness of third-party green rating systems. To frame our understanding, we can start by looking at the impact that third-party rating systems, like LEED, are having in the transformation of the housing development landscape, especially in affordable housing.

Take the state of Georgia for example. Prior to 2008, there wasn’t a single unit of LEED certified affordable housing in the state. Then in 2009, a handful of developers earned LEED for Homes certification and demonstrated that programs like LEED could work for affordable housing. In 2010, the Georgia Department of Community (DCA) affairs updated their Qualified Allocation Plan, which provided the means to score applications for low income housing tax credits (LIHTC) to include optional points for developers who want to pursue third-party validated green building certifications for their projects.

Fast-forward two years, and the landscape is drastically altered. While in 2009 you could count on one hand the number of affordable housing projects in Georgia that were pursuing certification programs for sustainability; in 2012, 100% of projects applying for LIHTC submitted proposals that would certify under third-party rating systems such as LEED for Homes and EarthCraft House. The Georgia DCA awards 2 points in the QAP scoring system (equivalent to roughly 3% of points earned) to projects committed to achieving a green building certification and this has created a new market for green affordable housing over a two-year period.

Today, nearly half the states in the US include points for green building in their QAP process, while over a third incentivize third-party verification. Though we still have a long road ahead of us to work with states to increase the prominence of green buildings, the effectiveness demonstrated by programs like the one in Georgia, makes the future for green building in affordable housing look brighter.

Want to learn more about the green affordable housing industry? Join thought-leaders in the green affordable housing industry at the annual Affordable Housing Summit at Greenbuild 2013 in Philadelphia to discuss how to continue to promote green building for underserved communities.  To learn more about scholarship opportunities to attend this summit please click here. You can also learn more about Greenbuild by visiting greenbuildexpo.org.

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Tommy Linstroth

Founder and Principal Trident Sustainability Group

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Director, Technical Policy, U.S. Green Building Council
Great article, Tommy. Thanks for all you do for USGBC and for green affordable housing!

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