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Housing Policies for an Era of High Energy Costs

In the daily headlines, oil prices fluctuate, but most experts see only one trend for the future: energy prices are going up. What does this mean for housing practitioners and policy makers? How can we prepare?

Over the five-month period from June to October 2008,'s monthly In Focus highlighted state and local housing strategies that can help preserve and expand the supply of affordable, energy-efficient homes. All of these policies have value even when energy costs are low. In an era of high energy prices, however, their importance grows as a set of complementary tools for achieving three core objectives:
  • Improved energy efficiency in the construction, rehabilitation, and operation of affordable homes.
  • Reduced reliance on cars through increased density near public-transit and job centers and creation of more walkable communities.
  • Guaranteed access by low- and moderate-income families to quality, affordable housing opportunities near public transit and job centers and in walkable communities.

Marvin Jones, courtesy of National Housing Trust/Enterprise Preservation Corporation
Click on the links below to learn more about six housing policies that can help achieve these objectives:

1. Green Affordable Housing (June) -- "Green" is not just for upscale homes. We'll explore solutions for improving the energy-efficiency of both existing and new homes, while keeping them affordable.

2. Shared Equity Homeownership (July) -- A unique housing type that falls somewhere between rental housing and traditional homeownership, shared equity homeownership can help ensure that affordable homes near public transit and job centers remain affordable even as property values rise.

3. Rental Housing Preservation (August) -- By upgrading and retrofitting existing buildings, rental housing preservation is the ultimate in "recycling" that can pay huge environmental dividends by reducing the need for energy-intensive new construction. Investments in rental housing preservation also can help ensure the ongoing availability of affordable rental homes near public transit and job centers.

4. "Zoning In" Affordability (September) -- Inclusionary Zoning policies create incentives for or require developers to reserve a modest share of units in new developments for affordable housing. It's one innovative way to provide low- and moderate-income families with access to affordable housing in newly built developments near public transit and job centers.

5. Transit-Oriented Development (October) -- By increasing the compactness of development near public transit stops, transit-oriented development can help reduce the number and length of car trips, lowering energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions.

6. Compact, Infill Development  -- By encouraging the redevelopment of vacant, abandoned and underutilized urban sites, infill development creates and expands walkable communities near job centers and takes better advantage of existing infrastructure.

These In Focus issues provide a brief overview of each policy, as well as case studies and interviews with practitioners.  They also provide direct links to expanded content available on  If you'd like to share lessons learned or examples of any of these policies, please drop us a note by clicking on the light bulb icon on any page of

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