On October 3rd LISC and Bank of America hosted a forum in Boston on “Greening Affordable Housing” that was attended by over 70 people from across the state representing the private, non-profit, and public sectors. Bob Gallery from Bank of America and Bob Van Meter from LISC kicked off a lively session on opportunities in this sector.
The first panel focused on cross-sector perspectives and speakers discussed some of the biggest challenges Massachusetts will have to grapple with in the next few years to positively transform the fields of sustainability in our communities and efficiency in our affordable housing stock. Mariella Puerto, a Senior Program Officer at the Barr Foundation, said all new affordable housing projects should have a mandate to be net-zero. Ed Connelly from New Ecology focused on the big opportunity to reduce maintenance costs through improving the efficiency of affordable housing projects. Deborah Goddard from MassHousing discussed the importance of predictability from utilities’ energy efficiency programs when owners are seeking to do retrofit projects at the time of refinance. It was really interesting to hear Clark Ziegler’s, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Housing Partnership, input on how conservatively financing agencies underwrite loans- he conveyed that 12 of 13 projects they examined had seriously overestimated energy costs in project underwriting. Amy Brusiloff discussed some her work at Bank of America on sustainability and her experience developing and implementing their $60 Million energy efficiency finance program for CDFIs.
The second panel highlighted some of our partners’ successes in the field. Mary Wambui, Asset Manager at Dorchester Bay EDC, discussed the challenges of doing retrofit work in a scattered site project called Columbia Road- after receiving technical assistance through the MA Green Retrofit Initiative they ultimately received $250,000 in Low-Income Multifamily utility funding to upgrade numerous boilers throughout the project. Marianne McLaughlin from Jamaica Plain NDC spoke about their success in improving the efficiency of their Pondview project and installing solar thermal systems to further lower the utility bills. Over the next five years, she plans on retrofitting another 250 units. Emily Looms from The Neighborhood Developers gave a great presentation about their work in the Box District, located in Chelsea, in which they developed LEED Platinum certified homes and obtained LEED for Neighborhood Development (ND) certification. Important to note that Emily didn’t hold back discussing the pros and cons of LEED ND and areas that could use some improvement going forward.
Overall, it was a great event that highlighted some of the cutting-edge work being done in the affordable housing field and opportunities to work together going forward.