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Enterprise promises $4 billion to green low-income housing [Updated]

October 21, 2009 |  9:00 am
Enterprise Community Partners Inc. said this morning that it planned to raise $4 billion over the next five years to help “green” low-income homes.

The Maryland-based nonprofit, which focuses on affordable housing and community development, will direct the money toward creating, preserving and retrofitting 75,000 residential, community and commercial buildings across the country and making them energy efficient. The funding commitment is part of Enterprise's ongoing Green Communities initiative.

Enterprise's private investment branch also will make retrofit loans to owners of multi-family buildings for energy- and water-reduction efforts and to make living environments more healthful.

Making buildings greener by addressing sustainability, air quality and the toxicity of building materials has health and economic benefits, executives say. The group called for all new and existing housing to be green by 2020.

The fundraising effort already has been bolstered by several donations, including a $1.5-million grant from the Home Depot Foundation and $1-million grants from the Kresge Foundation and the Kendeda Fund.

[UPDATED at 9:45 a.m.: Along with its funding announcement, Enterprise also released a study about the cost-effectiveness of making affordable housing energy efficient.

"Incremental Cost, Measurable Savings" claims that the average $4,524 per-unit upfront cost of complying with the 2005 version of the Enterprise Green Communities Criteria, a standard of 38 mandatory points and 13 optional ones, is quickly made worthwhile by the $4,851 in utility bill savings.

The criteria include regulations on energy and water conservation and points out how to improve internal air quality by directly venting stoves and bathrooms outdoors. The standard also recommends that homes be built near public transit and away from wetlands while using healthier materials, such as paints and adhesives with low levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

The average cost of incorporating the energy and water criteria was $1,917, but resulted in lifetime utility savings of $4,851, according to the data.

The study looked at 27 housing projects with a total of 1,640 single and multi-family homes. Overall, roughly 16,000 dwellings in 360 housing developments are thought to have complied with the criteria.]

-- Tiffany Hsu