Colorado Housing Authority’s proposal supports greener communities across state

Elimination of self-certification paves way for more equitable green homes
(Photo: Chih Yuan Wu | Dreamstime.com)

While negotiations over an infrastructure bill continue in Washington, D.C., Colorado is taking its own steps to improve upon local buildings and infrastructure. As part of the 2021-2022 Colorado Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Qualified Allocation Plan (QAP), the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority Board of Directors eliminated self-certification as an option for compliance under green building rating systems.

Under the final QAP, projects shift from a self-certification approach to a third-party verification approach, which guarantees integrity in design, construction and overall performance in a building. This is a welcome approach to building affordable housing in an equitable manner and one that strengthens communities, providing residents with safer and more sustainable homes.

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A home is the most important investment a person will make, and the conditions of our homes play an important role when it comes to our health, the environment and quality of life. Green homes, like those that are LEED-certified, provide healthier, more sustainable spaces and create economic incentives for companies. Ensuring that low-income families have access to green homes is also crucial to not only making communities more sustainable but also more equitable.

The third-party certification that comes with a rating system like LEED provides a metric for comparisons and can add significant value to a project. LEED takes a comprehensive approach to green housing, considering resident health and comfort as well as objectives such as energy and water efficiency, and indoor environmental quality. LEED projects must meet a set of rigorous criteria in a flexible system of prerequisites and optional credits that, when combined, set building projects on the path to excellence in sustainability and can support resilient communities.

By fully embracing third-party certification for low-income housing projects, it means that many low-income families will live in homes that have gone through a thorough quality control process, reviewed by a reputable and unbiased party to verify that a set of criteria or standards are being met. Third-party LEED certification of affordable housing prioritizes accountability, total value and building performance outcomes.

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This kind of accountability can have a profound impact. Not only does it translate into savings on energy and water bills, addressing one of the perpetual barriers to affordability, it gives residents a sense of security knowing that they are living in safe homes and communities.

With the CHFA embracing third-party certification, it joins major corporations, government agencies and many other organizations across the Colorado market using LEED. In fact, Colorado was one of the Top States for LEED in 2020. Colorado currently is home to nearly 17,000 LEED for Homes-certified projects, the majority of which are multifamily housing.

Since its inception, USGBC has advocated for better buildings that support people and planet. Whether through federal investment, or state and local programs, government policy has an important role in shaping our future. USGBC is committed to continued engagement to leverage policy to drive better buildings and infrastructure.

Deisy Verdinez is USGBC’s PR and communications director.

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