Today, Thursday, July 29, leaders in the fields of building, development, and financing met in Washington D.C., for a two-day conference focusing on green, affordable housing and other forms of community development.

Now in its fifth year, the Green Homes & Sustainable Communities Conference is recognized as a leader of ideas in the ever-growing green space. The morning kicked off with a keynote address from U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan.

“What was on the cutting edge is now very much on the mainstream of the dialogue, not just in Washington, D.C., but across the country,” Donovan began.

Donovan also discussed HUD’s commitment to bringing green into the mainstream of affordable housing, emphasizing cutting energy bills and building healthier homes.
“We need strong, sustainable, inclusive communities based on a foundation of green, affordable housing,” he said.

Donovan spoke about various partnerships to increase the level of financial support for green, affordable housing and build a “clean energy economy.” As part of the Recovery Act, approximately 230,000 units have already been greened.  Going forward, HUD plans to strengthen the energy requirements for HUD projects and support federal encouragement of localized development. HUD will also support new tools to achieve these goals, such as a green physical condition assessment, which will analyze cost effectiveness in projects and make suggestions for green improvements to existing housing.

Today’s educational sessions included: “Moving Even Farther Along the Green Continuum,” which focused on various types of affordable, green building projects and “Green Financing—The Holy Grail,” which discussed innovative financial strategies for these projects.

The LEED Platinum-certified Los Vecinos in Chula Vista, Calif., was highlighted during “Moving Even Farther Along the Green Continuum,” presented by Ted Bardacke, green urbanism senior program associate at Santa Monica, Calif.-based Global Green. The project’s greening enables residents to pay no more than $70 a year on electricity.

On the financial panel, Herb Stevens, a partner at Washington, D.C.-based Nixon Peabody, discussed the use of new market tax credits to fund the greening of buildings though use of techniques such as solar panels. One example he cited was 360 State Street in New Haven, Conn., a mixed-use project offering the first residential fuel cell, which will provide electricity to the entire complex.

The events for tomorrow, Friday, July 30, include an update on federal policy as well as a session called “The Built Environment’s Role in the Climate Change Dialogue.”