Validating the Impact of Green Affordable Housing

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Sustainable Fellwood, an mixed-use, mixed income EarthCraft Community and LEED Neighborhood Development in Savannah, Georgia.

“The most affordable home is one that is affordable to live in and operate.”  These are words we’ve lived by for years at Southface, and finally, we’re working to put statistics behind the anecdotes. Validating the Impact of Green Affordable Housing is a recently funded one-year research project. Our communities and policy teams, along with a steering committee of industry experts, will explore the impact of sustainable affordable housing when compared to code or conventional construction for multifamily developments utilizing Low-Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) and other federal and state allocated housing subsidies in the Southeast. Construction and development costs, utility allowances, utility consumption and cost data, and installed efficiency or “green” measures will be collected, analyzed and evaluated.

Validating the Impact of Green Affordable Housing will engage affordable housing stakeholders to quantify costs related to green building and define key issues around cost containment in order to increase the adoption of green building and sustainable development practices. The project proposes to collect data on actual development costs and energy and water utility usage from a sample of affordable housing developments in Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. Comparing the construction and operating costs of projects with and without green measures will provide much needed data on the performance of green affordable housing. The twelve-month research project will collect data from a representative sample of fifteen or more affordable housing developments. The sample will include developments that achieved a green building certification, such as EarthCraft, LEED for Homes, the National Green Building Standard and Enterprise Green Communities, and those which only met standard development requirements.


  • Compare the actual costs to design, develop, construct and operate green affordable housing versus comparable traditional housing across the Southeast.
  • Determine the benefits such as reduced energy, water and maintenance costs, as well as impacts on residents, property managers and developers.
  • Assess the administrative impact on housing finance.

Oliver House, an EarthCraft Multifamily certified affordable senior housing complex in Decatur that won the Atlanta Regional Commission's 2013 Development of Excellence Award.

Oliver House, an EarthCraft Multifamily certified affordable senior housing complex in Decatur, Georgia that won the Atlanta Regional Commission's 2013 Development of Excellence Award.


  • Quantify the resources necessary for housing finance agencies (HFA), property managers and developers in terms of labor, materials and cost to incentivize or require third-party green building programs. Determine if green building certification provides value as a quality assurance program.
  • Address a critical question of whether green building certification enhances the overall quality of affordable housing and hence reduces risks for the HFAs, property managers and developers.
  • Investigate impact of green building certification on operations and maintenance costs and enhanced tenant value.
  • Disseminate results and data throughout the affordable housing industry and engage policymakers, researchers and affordable housing advocates to advance sustainable affordable housing policy across the Southeast and nation.


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