Green-Building Techniques Come to Low-Income Housing

Eco-friendly building materials and techniques, once the exclusive province of upper-class enviros, are moving slowly but steadily down the income scale. In cities across the U.S., governments are offering a range of subsidies and tax breaks to developers of low-income housing, encouraging them to use energy-efficient boilers and appliances, fluorescent lights, geothermal heating and cooling wells, air-filtration systems, and other green-building staples. Such features can make a big difference for residents, says Matt Petersen of enviro group Global Green USA: “Energy bills are the second-highest bills that a family faces after rent or mortgage.” In most cases, the subsidies do not cover the price differential between green and standard building, and the cost savings primarily go to residents, not developers, so for now there remains an element of altruism in constructing green low-income housing.