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Emerald Cities Seattle Demonstrating Sustainable Affordable Housing Through Energy Efficiency

Ted S. Warren
Seattle's South Lake Union neighborhood is shown dotted with construction cranes and new buildings as viewed from the top of the Space Needle.

Energy efficiency and water conservation are important factors in keeping rental housing affordable. That’s the idea behind a new program launched in Seattle that’s demonstrating the concept nationwide, with an emphasis on multi-family buildings in high-cost urban areas.

Steve Gelb, with the Emerald Cities Collaborative, says the so-called RENEW program demonstrates sustainable solutions for non-profit developers who are squeezed by capped rents and rising costs. In Seattle, places like the Plymouth Housing buildings on Capitol Hill are benefitting from simple upgrades to lighting and water systems.


“We’re seeing anywhere from $7,000 to $30,000 a year in savings that helps these non-profits keep rents at the fixed levels they need to be to be affordable and helps them invest in services for tenants and ultimately building more affordable housing,” Gelb said.   


It also helps cities meet aggressive carbon reduction goals that curb the air pollution causing climate change.

Seattle, San Francisco and Providence Rhode Island are all members of the Emerald Cities RENEW program.


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