Enhancing Energy Efficiency and Green Building Design

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    Over the past 50 years, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Section 202 and Section 811 programs have produced almost 400,000 affordable rental homes for the elderly and 30,000 affordable homes for people with disabilities. These distinguished programs, however, have not always reached their potential—project development is slow, limited resources have been spread too thin, operating costs have continued to go up, and inadequate emphasis has been paid to ensuring broader benefits of program dollars. Generally speaking, programs that were conceived in a very different time have now come due for an update into the world of 21st century housing finance. Starting in early 2010, HUD initiated a comprehensive review of the two programs. After conducting internal analysis, participating in stakeholder listening sessions, and reading several hundred pages of written comment, HUD prepared legislative proposals to Congress and is pursuing a number of administrative changes to make the programs more sustainable, streamlined, and efficient.

    One key theme that emerged throughout the review is the need for a greater emphasis on sustainability and energy efficiency. Not only did this theme reflect tenants’ and owners’ desires for a healthier environment, but it also reflected the challenge associated with a continued growth of operating expenses across the 202 and 811 portfolios, which diverts resources away from the development and operation of new affordable homes. Accordingly, HUD’s Office of Multifamily Housing Programs has collaborated with HUD’s Office of Policy Development and Research and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to prepare ideas to help owners and sponsors increase energy efficiency in Section 202 and Section 811 housing. ICF International created the roadmap, presented in this Enhancing Energy Efficiency and Green Building Design in Section 202 and Section 811 Programs report, based on current best practices, with input from EPA and HUD staff and outside stakeholders. It sets forth a coordinated series of actions to increase energy efficiency in new and existing Section 202 and Section 811 projects. To illustrate these actions, the roadmap follows the experiences of five diverse organizations that have successfully incorporated energy efficiency and green concepts in new and existing Section 202 and Section 811 activities. Case studies included in section III of this report paint a picture of these organizations’ strategies for overcoming the challenges involved in “going green.”

    Long-term sustainability requires continued partnership between HUD and the sponsors and owners of federally supported affordable housing. We encourage continued efforts to make these projects greener, healthier, and more energy efficient, and we hope owners and sponsors find this roadmap helpful. Through efforts like these, we can benefit America’s low-income elderly and people with disabilities, improve communities, and have a greater impact with our federal investment.