WASHINGTON - A national affordable housing provider and a national environmental group announced the launch of the Green Communities Initiative, a five-year, $550 million commitment to build more than 8,500 environmentally friendly affordable homes across the country. According to the organizations, the initiative will offer financing, grants, and technical assistance to developers to build affordable housing that promotes health, conserves energy and natural resources, and provides easy access to jobs, schools, and services.

The Green Communities Initiative is a partnership of The Enterprise Foundation/Enterprise Social Investment Corporation (ESIC) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), along with the American Institute of Architects, the American Planning Association, and several corporate, financial, and philanthropic organizations.

"Too many Americans live in unhealthy, inefficient, and poorly sited housing that hinders them from reaching their full potential," said Bart Harvey, chairman and CEO of The Enterprise Foundation and chairman of ESIC. "Enterprise and NRDC have forged an unprecedented alliance of housing, health, and environmental organizations - supported by visionary corporate institutions and foundations - to ensure smarter, healthier homes are available to Americans with limited incomes."

"Building affordable green housing is not a new concept, but Green Communities will broaden the ongoing efforts of developers, states, and cities and make it mainstream," said Patricia Bauman, vice chair of NRDC's board of trustees. "We will assist developers that are already building green housing and encourage hundreds more to come on board. Our project will make thousands of affordable green developments bloom."

The initiative also will provide expert training and technical assistance to help housing developers "go green." For example, it will provide or help arrange technical assistance and training with experienced consultants, as well as fund planning activities for green projects - such as feasibility analyses and market studies - and initial architectural, engineering, and environmental reviews.

One of green housing's major selling points is that it helps provide healthier homes. "For many families, asthma, injuries, and lead poisoning are just symptoms of the underlying problem," said Dr. Megan Sandel, an expert on housing's impact on children's health at the Boston University School of Medicine. "Inadequate housing is the real disease. Safe, decent affordable housing is the best preventive medicine low-income families can get. This initiative will ensure that thousands of homes and the children that reside in them are safer and healthier."

For more information on the initiative, go to www.enterprisefoundation.org.

Publication date: 10/11/2004