Environmentally Sustainable Affordable Housing

The 2007 ULI/Shaw Forum on Urban Community Issues addressed a topic of increasing interest to the affordable housing community: What can be done to make environmentally sustainable affordable housing the standard practice of the day? Pairing green building with affordable housing is a natural fit. Yet, beyond reducing residents’ energy bills, green development also offers healthier living environments and more efficient, durable buildings with a lighter environmental impact and lower costs of operation. However, taking green building from niche to mainstream—particularly in the realm of affordable housing—remains a work in progress. Challenges to green building include the need for lower costs, improved technology, competitive products, and skilled professionals with expertise in green development and design. To realize the benefits on a widespread basis, it is also important to identify ways to make existing housing stock sustainable. Despite these challenges, the forum concluded that the future for green affordable housing is promising. The market demand for green projects will only increase as consumers become more informed about the individual and environmental benefits of green affordable housing. This demand will only accelerate investment and innovation in green building practices, which will be available to for-profit and nonprofit developers.