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San Francisco Green Communities for Affordable Housing

San Francisco leads affordable housing development with funding and technical assistance for developers

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$100 million worth of incentives to build 600 new homes in San Francisco

In 2005, Mayor Gavin Newsom announced that San Francisco would apply environmentally sustainable development principles to all the City’s new affordable housing developments. With this announcement, San Francisco becomes the first city in the country to adopt green construction standards for housing targeted to low-income residents.

This affordable housing program is a partnership between builders, environmentalists, the affordable housing community and the City’s low-income residents.

Mayor Newsom emphasized the importance of safe building materials saying, "Children in low-income neighborhoods often suffer from childhood diseases like asthma or lead-poisoning that are exacerbated by unhealthy housing. By signing up to be the country’s first citywide Green Community, we’ll prove that it is possible to build affordable housing and to build it green."

San Francisco Green Communities brings $60 million in equity from the federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit program, $40 million in predevelopment and site acquisition loans and other financing and $300,000 in grants to developers building affordable rental and for-sale housing across the city.

This is part of the national Green Communities initiative, a five-year, $555 million commitment to build more than 8,500 environmentally responsive affordable homes.

The San Francisco Green Communities partnering organizations selected six developments to participate in a demonstration phase. Each development receives a planning and/or construction grant of up to $50,000 from Enterprise to help maximize the integration of green building strategies into the development.

Global Green USA will provide technical assistance to San Francisco’s participating affordable housing developers. Green Communities is intended to increase demand for and familiarity with green building materials, reducing costs over the long-term. Many of the newly standards adopted by the City, like reducing energy and water usage, promoting long-term durability, and minimizing construction waste through use of recycled materials – reduce operating and capital costs, increasing overall affordability.

Case Study of Plaza Apartments

Healthier indoor air quality is one of green housing’s major selling points.

One in ten California and Bay Area kids has asthma and in many Bay Area communities, that number is one in five. As asthma is triggered by residential exposure to mold, mildew and vermin, healthier indoor air quality can help reduce asthma attacks and visits to the emergency room.

Enterprise also provided funds to monitor the impact of all of the San Francisco Green Communities projects and share the lessons learned with other organizations interested in green affordable housing development.

The Mayor's Office of Housing (MOH), the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency (SFRA) and Enterprise are investing at least $100 million worth of incentives to build 600 new homes in San Francisco that promote health, conserve energy and natural resources, and provide easy access to jobs, schools and services.

To create a workable standard, the initiative is asking its local partners to test and implement these criteria, and then track results over time. Only the replicable, best practices will be promoted to the entire industry. Green Communities is a 5-year, $555 million national initiative to build more than 8,500 homes using green “criteria” that will promote health, conserve energy and natural resources and enhance access to jobs, schools, and services.

The Enterprise Foundation helps America’s low-income families with their struggle out of poverty by providing decent homes, access to steady employment, quality child care and safer streets. Working with a network of 2,500 community organizations nationwide and through its 17 offices, The Enterprise Foundation and its wholly owned subsidiary, The Enterprise Social Investment Corporation, have leveraged close to $6 billion in investments and donations to build nearly 175,000 affordable homes and provide other life opportunities since 1982. For more information, visit:

Bill O'Brien
San Francisco Redevelopment Agency
770 Golden Gate Ave.
San Francisco, CA 94102
Phone: 415.749.2428
Web site:

Daniel Adams
Mayor's Office of Housing
25 Van Ness Ave, Suite 600
San Francisco, CA 94102
Phone: 415.701.5528
Web site:

Enterprise Rose Cade Enterprise Phone: 530.642.9990 Web site:

Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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