September 26, 2011

Sustainability: As HUD Takes a Closer Look, Evidence Matters

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 A close friend of mine lives in an apartment building that’s practically a case study in why multifamily rental complexes make such promising targets for sustainability improvements. It’s a raggedy old building. The pipes leak, the toilet runs, and the constant whir of the window A/C units in the summer makes it hard to ignore how the old windows can’t shut properly to seal out the heat. And there are probably another 60 units in his building with the same problems – leaking, dripping, blowing air, and otherwise wasting untold energy all day long. Sure, it’d require initial investment on the part of the building’s owner, but imagine the savings – environmental and economic – that could be had with some simple improvements to promote sustainability.

Multifamily rental complexes are ideal for green retrofits for a number of reasons. They are typically older than single-family homes, so the plumbing, heat, cooling and lighting systems are typically less efficient. Tenants in multifamily units tend to be poorer than their single-family counterparts, so they stand to save a greater percentage of their monthly paycheck if green improvements cut energy costs. Plus, the compact nature of multifamily housing makes it inherently more energy efficient – so improvements to efficiency carry more bang for the buck. Yet for a number of reasons, green improvements in the multifamily rental sector have been sluggish.

The summer edition of Evidence Matters, a quarterly research-based, data-driven publication assembled by HUD’s Office of Policy Development and Research, is all about sustainability this month, and it takes a stab at exploring why more multifamily owners aren’t going green – and what can be done to change this. It also examines the history of how we’ve defined and measured sustainability, as well as the techniques employed by cities that have garnered broad support for energy efficient initiatives. As always, Evidence Matters is a great read on a salient subject perfect for those looking for objective, unbiased research in the field of housing and community development.

To check out a full press release, click here. And find this sustainability-centric issue of Evidence Matters over here.

2 Responses to Sustainability: As HUD Takes a Closer Look, Evidence Matters

  1. Here’s the clencher: “it’d require initial investment on the part of the building’s owner, but imagine the savings – environmental and economic”

    1) Environmental savings don’t pay the bills
    2) Economic savings would be towards the renter (assuming not all bills paid), not the landlord. Again, still doesn’t pay the bills as far as the landlord is concerned.

    No way would a landlord do that without seeing some sort of payback in the end.

  2. Multifamily affordable housing buildings are certainly one of the major residential types that can benefit from retrofit projects. This is slowly becoming reality, as many nonprofit affordable housing builders as well as public housing agencies refocus their efforts toward efficiency. The latest edition of Evidence Matters will help to make the case even stronger.

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