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Statement of Congressman Barney Frank on the New and Important Green Development Standards for Public Housing

Statement

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Congressman Barney Frank, Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee today issued the following statement regarding new and substantial environmental standards for new public housing starts as part of the recently passed HOPE VI reauthorization.

"Last week, the House passed important environmental standards for new public housing starts in the United States. This provision is very important because for the first time, through the HOPE VI program, we are requiring a strong and binding requirement that the federal funds used for affordable housing building and construction require a high standard of energy efficiency.

"This is important both substantively and as a precedent that the federal government cannot preach energy efficiency to the private sector without incorporating into our own programs. It will also give us a chance to show that an increase in initial expenditure for energy efficiency is economically sound because of the savings it would accrue. An amendment from the Republican leadership of the Financial Services Committee to weaken the requirement was defeated by 169 to 240, with all but three Democrats and 20 republicans repudiating it. I thank the work of Congressman Perlmutter, the chair of the committee's energy task force and Chairwoman Waters for helping to steer the bill to passage."

"With this vote, the 110th Congress had its first opportunity to live up to the spirit of the landmark energy legislation that recently became law," Congressman John Olver said. "Addressing climate change in a government with shared power, with a Republican president and a Democratic Congress with a slim majority, has been an uphill battle. But today we took an important first step toward the Federal government holding itself to a higher standard, continued Olver."

The Republican amendment referenced by Frank above would have eliminated the requirement in the bill that all grants must comply with minimum Green Development requirements. The amendment proposed to replace a mandatory requirement with one that would have merely made green development as one factor among many that are considered in the grading of HOPE VI grant applications. Even as just one factor, the amendment would permit HUD to propose much weaker green development standards than the bill requires.

Background:

The national Green Communities criteria is the first national green building program developed for affordable housing. It was developed through a consensus-based process with input from a number of groups, including: the Natural Resources Defense Council, American Institute of Architects, American Planning Association, National Center for Healthy Housing, Southface Energy Institute, Global Green USA, and the Center for Maximum Potential Building Systems. The national Green Communities criteria checklist consists of eight main categories that address everything from conserving resources to improving air quality. Specifically, the eight main categories are: integrated design process; location and neighborhood fabric; site improvements; water conversation; energy efficiency; materials beneficial to the environment; healthy living environment and operations and management.

"Green" Development in H.R. 3524 as amended by the Manager's Amendment:
-Specifies that residential construction must comply with a minimum level of mandatory and non-mandatory aspects outlined in the national Green Communities criteria checklist, or a substantially equivalent standard determined by the HUD Secretary. In addition, the bill grades the extent to which HOPE VI applications propose to meet additional non-mandatory aspects included in the criteria checklist. The bill ensures green development is a dynamic feature of the HOPE VI program by giving the HUD Secretary the authority to adopt and apply by regulation any changes made to the green development standards going forward.

Residential Construction
-Requires all residential construction to be built in compliance with the mandatory aspects (e.g., providing sidewalks or suitable pathways in the development, installing water-conserving fixtures, and using water heaters that protect against mold) of the national Green Communities criteria checklist, or a substantially equivalent standard as determined by the HUD Secretary.

-Requires all residential construction to be built in compliance with a minimum number of non-mandatory aspects included in the national Green Communities criteria checklist that are assigned various points in order to obtain at least 25 points for new construction and 20 points for rehab out of a total of 144 points. These non-mandatory aspects include a range of items such as using non-vinyl, non-carpet floor coverings in all rooms and positioning the building in a way that promotes solar heating. Thus, there is broad flexibility in reaching this threshold. For example, locating the structure near transit would get you almost half of those points (12) so you do not need to do more expensive things like solar

-Gives weighted consideration for HOPE VI applications that provide greater compliance with the non-mandatory aspects of the national Green Communities criteria checklist.

Non-Residential Construction
-Directs the HUD Secretary to determine a green building standard based on a set of factors outlined in the bill for non-residential construction.


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