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Guide to Green and Healthy Multi-Family Affordable Housing

Families thrive when they live in affordable, high quality and healthy housing. However, low income families and individuals too often do not have access to these necessities. They suffer disproportionately from preventable health problems like asthma, toxic stress, and obesity. These problems are caused and exacerbated by social determinants of health: poorly constructed and maintained housing; a lack of health care and green spaces; and rising energy and water costs often strain the operating budgets of multifamily housing, resulting in deferred maintenance and poor indoor conditions.

To help property owners and managers tackle these problems, LISC created a green and healthy framework to integrate cost effective healthy and green practices into existing affordable housing rehabilitation and property management.

The project has the dual benefit of lowering building energy and water costs, while also improving the health and wellness of residents and staff. Our team has supported affordable housing developers to implement health related building improvements focused on reducing asthma and obesity risks such as smoke free housing, green cleaning, integrated pest management, and active design strategies.

Our Impact in NYC and Boston

Collectively, LISC’s NYC and Boston offices have worked with over 70 multifamily housing owners to create healthier housing, track energy and water use, and undertake energy or water saving strategies in over 9,000 apartments (4,000 in NYC; 5,000+ in MA). This work resulted in substantial energy, water and health improvements.

  • Energy retrofits often resulted in at least 20% energy and water savings.
  • Electric savings in NYC properties declined by more than $100/apartment/year. Gas savings in NYC were as high as $700/apartment/year.
  • Water savings in NYC projects ranged from $300 to $1,100/apartment/year. One owner saved $50,000 annually and reported a 17-month payback and another reported a 40% water savings.
  • Switching to green cleaning products reduced costs by 25% across one NYC owner’s portfolio and reduced asthma risks for over 2,275 families.
  • Adopting Integrated Pest Management (IPM) lower toxicity practices reduced pest control costs by 25% in one NYC property and asthma risks for 2,285 residents.
  • Adopting smoke free housing policies in NYC reduced asthma, cancer and heart disease risks for 1,100 residents and is anticipated to lower unit turnover costs by $500-$1500/apartment.

Maximum NYC Owner Cost Reductions Per Apartment/Year

Beyond work with owners, our efforts have resulted in policy and programmatic changes:

  • Incorporating health and energy efficiency measures in the new Integrated Physical Needs Assessment (IPNA) required for City of New York housing funding for many affordable housing renovation projects (developed in conjunction with Enterprise Community Partners). In the past, affordable housing developers in New York City were required to conduct a separate physical needs assessments and energy audits. The new IPNA combines the physical needs assessment with the energy audit and a set of questions designed to help housing owners identify interventions that will impact the health of building residents;
  • Requiring health training for IPNA providers and affordable housing development teams;
  • Securing Medicaid funding for IPM in the homes of high risk asthma patients;
  • Helping to structure a statewide low-income multifamily utility energy efficiency program (LEAN LIMF) in MA and building demand among multifamily affordable housing owners;
  • Encouraging the MA LEAN program to commit to improvements, including providing completed energy assessments to owners, providing incentive commitments six months in advance of a project’s planned rehab, accepting third party comprehensive energy audits as a basis of decision-making, and allowing owners to use their own general contractor for LEAN work;
  • Collaborating with utilities and state housing finance agencies to create an Energy Efficiency Roadmap for owners whose projects are approaching a planned rehab.

If you are interested in taking the information in this toolkit further, you can work with your local partners, and/or bring in your local LISC office to address green and healthy housing on policy and/or programs.

Guides by Expertise

Owners, Developers and Managers

Tools and resources to help affordable housing owners, developers and property managers pursue cost effective practices and implement health driven property management.

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Nonprofit Intermediaries

Key activities for nonprofit intermediaries to consider that our offices undertook to support affordable housing owners and managers.

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Policymakers and Advocates

LISC’s work in NYC and Boston surfaced several policy opportunities to more fully incorporate health into capital needs assessments, renovation projects, and ongoing property management.

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Tools & Resources

General resources, case studies and topic-specific reports related to green and healthy housing. 

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