Updates to leading green affordable housing guidelines from Enterprise Community Partners focus on adapting to a changing climate and adopting “Path to Zero” for energy efficiency

COLUMBIA, Md. (Jan. 22, 2020) – Enterprise Community Partners (Enterprise) today launched the 2020 Enterprise Green Communities Criteria (Criteria), which set the standard for green affordable housing construction nationwide. The Criteria, first launched in 2005 in consultation with leading environmental, public health and green building experts, were the first national green building guidelines specifically for affordable housing. Today, 27 states and Washington D.C. require that affordable housing developments receiving public funds comply with the Criteria. This year alone, the Criteria will be used to create or preserve more than 200 environmentally friendly multifamily affordable housing developments. 

“The choices developers make during the design and construction process—location, building materials, the configuration of common spaces and so many more—make a tangible difference for people, their homes and their communities,” said Laurel Blatchford, president, Enterprise. “The Criteria help ensure those choices take into account everything we know about healthy living environments and energy efficiency. In the 2020 update, we are expanding the requirements that help protect vulnerable communities from the effects of our changing climate and ensuring that the buildings we create can withstand disasters that can upend lives and destroy whole communities.”

To inform and develop the updated Criteria, Enterprise engaged with hundreds of partners over 18 months, including a Technical Working Group of green building subject matter experts, an Advisory Working Group of affordable housing stakeholders and a Policy Working Group of federal, state and local policymakers who incentivize green affordable housing. 

In summer 2019, Enterprise solicited feedback through a public open comment period, receiving over 700 comments and three dozen public agency memos. The comments covered every aspect of the Criteria, including feedback on the new “Path to Zero” emissions elimination strategy, which encourages affordable housing developers to cost-effectively reduce and eventually eliminate building emissions.

Residential and commercial buildings currently account for 36 percent of global energy use and 39 percent of carbon dioxide emissions annually. For the first time, the Criteria will offer two levels of certification; Enterprise Green Communities Certification Plus will recognize the most exemplary green developments making the greatest strides along the “Path to Zero.”

In addition to the Path to Zero, other major updates to the 2020 Criteria include:

  • New Project Priorities Survey to shape project goals with resident input, which frames goal setting to promote equity and recognition of climate change
  • New approach to Rural/Tribal/Small Towns projects; requirements for access to public transit have been replaced with new requirements for access to broadband
  • Amplified approach to stormwater management
  • New water-quality criterion that addresses lead and legionella
  • Smoke-free requirement for all common spaces 
  • New approach to healthy and environmentally friendly building materials to avoid chemicals of concern and reduce emissions

Enterprise also announced a new partnership with the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) to promote the development of green affordable housing that prioritizes community health and well-being. With the launch of the 2020 Criteria, affordable housing that is Enterprise Green Communities-certified will also be certified to IWBI’s WELL Building Standard.   

Building sustainably is a cost-saving tool over the long term and one of the most effective means of controlling operating expenses. Criteria-certified homes typically cost around 2 percent more to build, but provide a simple payback from utility bill savings alone in less than seven years. Building green can also reduce costs of living, including utilities and health care, as well as the proportion of a family’s income that goes toward transportation to work, school and local services.

Enterprise first developed the Criteria to demonstrate that green affordable housing is possible, educate developers and the public about green affordable housing design and construction practices and create access to healthier and more cost-efficient homes for people living in affordable housing. Since then, Enterprise has deployed trainings and a TA Provider Network to address capacity issues; developed debt and equity products, grants and other sources of capital to expand opportunities for affordable green development; and worked with HUD and state Housing Finance Agencies to incentivize (and require in some municipalities) building green within existing institutional and political frameworks. 

To date, the Enterprise Green Communities Initiative has invested more than $3.9 billion in the development and preservation of more than 127,000 green affordable homes in nearly every state in the country. 

Enterprise Green Communities is one of several initiatives under Building Resilient Futures, Enterprise’s core strategy working to expand climate resilience nationwide. 

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Jordan Miller, Group Gordon