A Clear Message on Sustainable Housing?

Earlier today, the Municipal Arts Society, as part of their Summit for New York City, held a conference on Sustainable Housing.

The panelists each had a few minutes to share their experiences.

Jerylene Perine, Executive Director of Citizens Housing and Planning Council, focused her allotted time on the fact that as consumers of housing, the the most sustainable act we can make is to consume less.  Essentialy, her message was that while the overarching theme in housing in the United States was that bigger is better, the reality is that we need to live smaller in order to be more environmentally sound.

Julia Vitullo-Martin, from the Manhattan Institute and Regional Plan Association, focused on the high cost of construction in New York City.  She said that every aspect of construction, from land to labor to materials, was more expensive in New York City than in any other competing City.

Paul Freitag, Managing Director of Development at the Jonathan Rose Companies, implied that it was possible to do good and do well.  Calling his company a for profit company with the mission of repairing the urban fabric, he went through examples of both green and affordable successful housing developments his company is or was involved in.  One of their more recent ventures is a nationwide segment of their business that purchases existing buildings, providing for them both a green retrofit and a rebranding – both of which enhance the building’s bottom line.

Bomee Jung, Program Director of Green Communities at Enterprise Community Investment, talked about the benefits of green retrofits and how the hard work in this field is to get people to focus and invest in the more meaningful and effective aspects of green (weatherization, etc.) rather than the “sexy” aspects (solar panels, green roofs, etc.).  Additionally, Bomee did show which states had included some kind of green requirements/standards in their application criteria for Low Income Housing Tax Credits.  She explained that nearly every state now had some minimum level of green requirements for allocation of these credits.

As an audience member, it was difficult to say that there was one clear message from the conference.  Where is the field of sustainable housing in NYC going?  What areas should be focused on?  What are the main obstacles?  No clear message was forthcoming, but it may be unrealistic to expect one.

Jerylene Perine may have had the line of the event, questioning whether affordability and sustainability in NYC housing were actually affordable and/or sustainable.