July 14th, 2011

HUD Public Housing Authority Sustainability Conference

July 2011 HUD PIH Ecowise NewsletterAt the HUD Going Green: Intelligent Investments for Public Housing conference yesterday in Boston, the biggest takeaway was simply the attendance. Standing room only, with participants crowded at tables in a large ballroom, and others apparently turned away at the door. With funding restrictions and cuts for the foreseeable future, it would have been fair to think that green building in particular and investment in general might not be a hot topic. But the turnout yesterday indicates that the opposite is true.

Sessions on Day One included lots of examples of tangible projects representing the Change We Believed In back in November 2008. Examples included green retrofits from agencies in Cambridge, MA and Baltimore, MD, agency-wide sustainability efforts in Denver, CO, and a large scale net zero project in El Paso, TX.

Industry-wide, CLPHA reported on $5 billion of stimulus-funded work, which spurred $12 billion in total economic investment and created over 100,000 jobs in communities across the country (CLPHA numbers presented at the conference). If you’re counting, that’s roughly $50,000 of public investment per job created, which is significantly less than the $200-270k numbers I’ve seen cited by critics of the stimulus. Beyond just the stimulus, HUD reported green retrofits of more than 159,000 units over the past two years–an ambitious benchmark for success that HUD set early last year, and met mostly with retrofits in the public housing portfolio.

I spoke as part of the opening keynote, following presentations by HUD PIH Assistant Secretary Sandra Hernandez and a raft of HUD officials with updates on existing programs and hints of future changes under development. One future development mentioned is the notion of HUD certifying green agencies and recognizing applications by those agencies for additional points or other consideration in competitive grants of all kinds, including possibly from other federal agencies such as DOT and EPA. Also, HUD staff mentioned expanded training available to PHA staff in all departments on sustainability and green building.

Follow the conference or look for comments on Twitter at #MakePHgreen.

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