Letter to Economist Editor


To the Editor:

I was pleased to read your March 31st piece highlighting affordable housing developers as being on the cutting edge of green.  Few media outlets have stepped back and looked at the sea change occurring in public housing across the U.S., including the industry’s substantial advances in sustainable development.

The Future of Public Housing Policy Framework, developed at the CLPHA-convened 2008 Summit on the Future of Public Housing, includes a commitment to greening the entire public housing portfolio in ten years.  The $4 billion in Recovery Act public housing capital funds has given the industry a jumpstart in developing plans previously languishing on drawing boards, and its innovative work is generating neighborhood revitalization in urban centers across the country. Here are just a few examples:

  • Denver is starting work on the first phase of a 17.5 acre mixed-use, mixed-income, transit-oriented community intended to serve as a national model. The community is designed to deliver exceptional environmental efficiency and energy performance, including better access to fresh fruits and vegetables, and bike and pedestrian-friendly routes.  

  • The District of Columbia is turning a former public housing site into a green, transit-oriented, mixed use, mixed finance development. It will include a solar power array, vegetative green roof, bio-retention facilities and Energy Star appliances.

  • El Paso is using its award to finance its Paisano Green Project, redeveloping a 4.2 acre parcel that has stood vacant for 10 years. The development will include a range of green improvements, including connections between neighborhoods and green space, improved surface water management techniques, and the use of renewable energy resources.

  • Newark is using Recovery Act funds to jumpstart development of a new green, compact, and sustainable mixed-income community that is a five minute walk from a central transit station.  A key element of the new neighborhood will be Baxter Park, envisioned as a ‘gracious public outdoor room’ that encourages pedestrian activity and connectivity with the city.  

  • Portland has a grant for its Resource Access Center, the cornerstone of the city’s 10 year plan to end homelessness. The center will provide housing, employment, and treatment counseling; hot showers; storage; and communication services to help with job and housing searches.  It is designed to be a LEED Gold certified development, incorporating a number of cutting edge sustainability design elements.

Sustainable affordable housing is crucial to vibrant metropolitan communities, and it is encouraging to see the industry’s efforts acknowledged.


Sunia Zaterman

Executive Director

Council of Large Public Housing Authorities