‘The Green Picture’ with Erika Schnitzer: The Government’s Greening Initiatives

The USGBC recently released its “Top Ten Ways to U...

The USGBC recently released its “Top Ten Ways to Use Recovery Funds for Green Buildings.” In its introduction, the report notes that local governments have begun to think “holistically about how to use recovery dollars to advance sustainability in the built environment,” rather than basing change on a “project-by-project” basis.

This is pretty evident in the ever-increasing news about city and state efforts to mandate building standards and/or provide incentives to buildings that include a certain green checklist, if you will.

While most, if not all, of the USGBC’s Top Ten can be incorporated into multifamily, I find No. 2: Build or Expand Residential Energy Retrofit Programs, the most relevant in terms of government funding of multifamily projects. In my last note, I discussed NYC Mayor Bloomberg’s proposed energy retrofit legislation, but I failed to note any other local, state—or for that matter, federal—initiative involved in energy retrofits—particularly of multi-housing communities

Just in time to discuss this, I received news that HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan has announced that approximately $250 million in funding will be used to promote energy-efficient and green retrofits in multifamily housing. Accordingly, the plan is for 25,000 apartment units to become more energy-efficient as a result of the Secretary’s announced funding—which is being made available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. (Click here for a description of the Green Retrofit Program for Multifamily Housing.)

While these funds are only available for those owners already receiving project-based assistance through HUD, this certainly seems to be a step in the right direction—and a fairly large nod to multi-housing. (Does this mean the federal government is publicly acknowledging the importance of rental housing? I certainly hope so.)

But this acknowledgement only helps those already receiving public funding, namely affordable housing communities. In addition to the Green Retrofit Program, the Obama administration has provided a number of other funds for affordable housing. Scott Reithel, vice president of property management at Community Housing Partners, recently told MHN that he is “impressed with the appointment of Shaun Donovan, who has a lot of knowledge of the sector” and that the current administration is more focused on affordable housing.

Of course, these are the communities that need it the most, but state and local programs that encourage—or in some cases, mandate—energy retrofits will need funding, too.

What do you think? What, realistically, could the administration do to help in the greening effort of other multifamily communities?

(Share your thoughts. Email me at Erika.Schnitzer@nielsen.com)