Forum Explores Ways to Preserve Green Rental Homes

Representatives from a wide array of government agencies, housing providers and housing preservation groups convened

Eugene Gilligan, Contributing Editor

Boston–Representatives from a wide array of government agencies, housing providers and housing preservation groups convened in Boston on Wednesday to discuss regional best practices for creating and maintaining green, affordable rental homes, and to find better ways to support this initiative through innovative partnerships, policy development and legislative reform.

The one-day meeting was sponsored by the National Housing Conference and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and is the first in a series of three conferences devoted to green affordable rental properties that the two organizations will co-sponsor.

“The conference offered stakeholders the opportunity to drill down and look at programs that are working right now,” says Lynn Ross, state and local initiatives director for the National Housing Conference and the Center for Housing Policy.

While the legislative goings-on on Capitol Hill get a lot of attention, many state and local governments are finding innovative solutions to encourage green rental housing initiatives, Ross says. This conference afforded policymakers and advocates the opportunity to share ideas, both formally and informally.

“You can’t get that through a webinar,” Ross says.

The conference’s opening session illustrated the conference participants’ diversity, Ross says, as there were representatives from housing preservation groups (National Housing Trust, Preservation of Affordable Housing) government agencies (Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development), and an energy conservation advisory firm (Vermont Energy Investment Corp.)

Other sessions explored such topics as “Green Preservation of Historic Buildings” and “Funding Green Improvements with Energy Savings.”

One breakout session focused on “Engaging Tenants and Management in the Benefits of Green Building,” which Ross said can still be a challenge.

“Many are not quite sold [on green building] because of the upfront cost,” Ross says, which means that  education and providing case studies that show the financial payback from energy savings in green buildings are imperative to win over skeptics.

The NHC and the MacArthur Foundation will host two more conferences on affordable renting housing. On May 17, in Portland, Ore., the theme will be preserving rural and urban affordable rental housing. On September 28, in Denver, preserving affordable housing near transit will be explored.

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