NeighborWorks America Awards $35M in Grants for Greening of Affordable Housing

Washington, D.C.--The CFRAH grants will provide the selected recipients from NeighborWorks' network of nonprofit organizations with money to assist the development of green properties.

Washington, D.C.–Going green has become a priority, if not a necessity, for affordable housing owners, and NeighborWorks America is addressing the issue. The Washington, D.C.-based national nonprofit organization–created by the U.S. Congress–has just awarded $35 million in Capital Funding for the Rehabilitation of Affordable Housing (CFRAH) grants to 117 member organizations and two NeighborWorks-affiliated capital corporations to fund green improvements at multifamily and single-family properties in communities across the country.

“One of the things that is going on in multifamily affordable housing is the recognition that access to capital is going up and the cost of financing is going up, so with an eye on keeping properties affordable, owners know they need to install green upgrades to keep operating expenses low,” NeighborWorks spokesperson Doug Robinson tells MHN. And, of course, expenses are on the rise for residents, too. “The price of gas has decreased but that won’t remain the case forever,” he adds. “Affordable housing property owners are aware that tenants have the need to commute longer distances, so owners are asking themselves what they can do to keep operating expenses down because if they can keep expenses down, tenants can afford rents.”

The CFRAH grants will provide the selected recipients from NeighborWorks’ network of nonprofit organizations with money to assist the development of green properties; the rehabilitation of currently owned rental housing; the rehabilitation of rental housing that is newly acquired or will be acquired; and the rehabilitation of single-family homes that member organizations will purchase or have recently purchased to sell to homeowners. The grants also come in the form of revolving loans for the upgrading of owner-occupied property.

The strong demand among owners for federal money to finance the greening of affordable housing properties is evidenced by the number of applicants for the CFRAH grants, which are facilitated through the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2010. Even with a cap on the amount of money that could be requested, NeighborWorks ended up with $73 million in requests from its network of nonprofit member organizations, more than double the amount of grant funds that ware available.

“We have member organizations in our network that own a total of approximately 75,000 multifamily units around the country that are looking to do green components wherever possible with rehabilitation projects,” Robinson notes. “And with new developments, it’s just a question of how green the projects will be.”

Among the applicants that won CFRAH grants are NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley in Woonsocket, R.I., and Primavera Foundation in Tucson, Ariz.  Blackstone will pursue a green upgrade of all units in its oldest Low-Income Housing Tax Credit-developed (LIHTC) project, and will commence rehabilitation initiatives at other properties, including the redevelopment of a vacant mill into a six-unit complex of affordable apartments for Community-Builders-In-Residence. Primavera will use the grant funding to acquire and rehabilitate as many as 10 bank- or investor-owned residences in South Tucson that the organization will later sell to first-time homebuyers. “Owners are looking at operating expenses in the long run, so switching boilers or putting in landscaping that minimizes runoff reduces expenses,” Robinson says. “Affordable housing property owners are definitely going green in a big way.”