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Green and Affordable Housing: can we have our cake and eat it too?

Affordable housing that is also “green” can benefit not only the tenants but developers and property owners as well. Greater resource efficiency, improved occupant health, increased tenant retention, and an ability to save money over the long term are just some among many of these advantages. But designing or retrofitting affordable housing to also be “green” is a complicated task. To ensure that both are realized often requires somewhat higher initial or upfront costs and these costs are often borne by the developer or housing owner alone.

Because of this, it can be a challenge that requires hard work and careful analysis to deliver more housing that is both affordable and green. With a limited budget this can entail tradeoffs: whether that be scaling back the size of units to increase Net Operating Income, reducing the landscaping budget, or spending time to find lower-cost materials that are still of good quality. One effective and simple strategy to finance green designs or upgrades that is often overlooked however, is Utility Allowance Modeling.

A building or property owner can perform a Utility Allowance Model (UAM) -or energy consumption model- to calculate property specific Utility Allowances. A UAM is an engineering-based method that takes into account unique building and unit characteristics that impact water and energy consumption. By performing a UAM, the Utility Allowance can be adjusted for specific properties: ensuring greater accuracy and an increase in Net Operating Income. This can then allow for energy and water efficiency upgrades or retrofits, general improvements for the property, the ability to hire more staff and/or provide additional tenant services. To give an idea of how these models are performed and the benefits they can bestow, we have put together this case study of one property that AIQUEOUS and our partners at Alan Plummer and Associates worked on. We hope that it will be informative and useful for you in the work that you do:

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