Funding sources and government programs are moving towards requiring green certification or mandating sustainable features for affordable housing grants. Developers are gaining a deeper understanding of how to build cost-effective, green affordable housing and why building green makes sense.

“In a few years to say green affordable housing might almost become redundant,” says Bill Stein, principle, Dattner Architects, New York.

“It’s become fairly mainstream at this point and required in whatever different way by just about every housing and funding agency,” says Chris Cirillo, vice president, The Richmond Group, Greenwich, Conn.“Tenants expect to see it, developers expect to do it and funding agencies want it.”

The New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development now requires all new projects to achieve Enterprise Green Community (EGC) certification.EGC is a green certification program for affordable housing developed by Enterprise Community Partners (ECP), Columbia, MD.

New York State is using EGC criteria in its competitive criteria on applications for State Housing and Urban Development (HUD) tax credits. Given the competitiveness of the tax credit market, projects need to go beyond threshold requirements and acquire competitive points, explains Victoria Shire, deputy director, ECP. “We are seeing an increased trend in the number of applications that are going after green competitive points and a similar trend in the awards being made.”

For the next round of applications the State is looking at moving some green competitive criteria into threshold requirements.“They want to raise the bar and continue to drive the industry toward greener housing,” Shire explains.

EGC Projects

EGC is fast becoming the standard for green affordable housing. The program takes a prescriptive approach to ensure housing built to its criteria is cost-effective, healthy and affordable. Projects must comply with more than 35 mandatory provisions and earn optional points to achieve certification.

For developers committing to meeting EGC criteria, Enterprise offers financing, tax-credit equity, grants, loans and technical assistance.

In the northwest Bronx Fordham Bedford Housing Corporation partnered with the Ursuline Sisters to develop 243-units of affordable senior housing. Enterprise provided $25 million in tax credit equity for the $68 million development called Serviam Gardens. The project meets EGC criteria and includes a green roof and rainwater harvesting system.

At 1490 Dumont Avenue in Brooklyn, the Hudson Companies, New York, obtained an acquisition loan from Enterprise to develop a 176-unit low income rental building. Lettire Construction, New York, is building the project to meet EGC and NYSERDA Multifamily Performance Program (MPP) criteria. The affordable project is the first in Brooklyn to incorporate solar panels.

Jonathan Rose Companies is renovating 10 adjoining tenements comprising 198 apartments at West 135th Street and Lenox Avenue in Harlem.Designed by Dattner Architects, the green retrofits include high-efficiency boilers, PV panels, upgraded lighting and lighting controls, double-pane low-e windows and low-flow plumbing fixtures.

The project received a $3.6 million subsidized loan from HUD, the first loan announced under HUD’s Green Retrofit Program for Multifamily Housing funded by the stimulus legislation.Enterprise syndicated $10.1 million in tax credits and originated a $22.5 million acquisition loan.

Benefits to Developers

The Richmond Group, a developer, owner and manager of affordable housing, is among a growing group of developers realizing the benefits of building green. The company is committed to incorporating green elements into its projects wherever possible.

“It makes a lot of sense if you are going to develop a property and own it for the long term,” Cirillo says. “It’s better for the environment, it reduces our long term operating costs and it makes it more affordable and creates a better environment for our tenants.”

Richmond, Archstone-Smith and Mon-adnock are developing three-large vacant parcels between 125th and 127th Streets, from Second to Third Avenues, in Harlem into a mix of affordable housing, retail and community space.

The first project is constructing 49 low income apartments at 2293 Third Avenue. The building, designed to meet LEED Silver and NYSERDA MPP criteria, features efficient HVAC systems, Energy Star appliances and lighting and low-emitting materials and finishes. Completion is slated for August 2011.