New affordable housing can be decked out with all of the latest green innovations as well as energy-efficient and water-conserving features, but maintaining a green development after construction takes additional work from property managers and residents.
Five nonprofit and for-profit developers from around the country shared with Affordable Housing Finance their top strategies for engaging residents in the green features of their communities.
1. Multilingual Videos
Susan Friedland, executive director of Berkeley, Calif.–based Satellite Affordable Housing Associates, says the nonprofit has tried different methods from handbooks to workshops but is now trying something new to engage residents. “We have found that training our maintenance staff works best with videos so we are hoping it will work well with residents as well,” she says. “And we will try to inject a little humor in them.”
2. Welcome Gifts
Every resident who moves into a WinnCos.’ community receives a welcome gift with an introduction to their apartment, helpful tips to conserve energy and water, how to recycle, and who to call with questions. “The gift also introduces each resident to our corporate commitment to sustainability, which is one of the main guiding principles of the company,” says Darien Crimmin, vice president of energy and sustainability for the Boston-based firm.
3. Educating Children
Austin, Texas–based Foundation Communities is working on two new strategies for engaging their residents. “We are piloting a new environmental education curriculum in our on-site learning centers that teaches kids about resource conservation and healthy living,” says Executive Director Walter Moreau. “The idea is for them to take home what they’ve learned.”
The nonprofit also is planning to engage residents through displays of its apartments’ green building features in the leasing offices.
4. Ongoing Training
In addition to requiring mandatory building orientation tours and giving residents a building handbook, San Jose, Calif. –based First Community Housing provides ongoing training on key issues like recycling, says Executive Director Jeff Oberdorfer. The nonprofit also meets regularly with service providers to obtain their feedback and ideas, he adds.
5. Energy Monitoring
New York’s Blue Sea Development Co. also furnishes resident manuals and provides walk-throughs of its developments, pointing out the various sustainable features in the units and the buildings. “For many, when they see what kinds of thought and effort went into the design and construction, they become more knowledgeable and interested in learning more,” says Principal Les Bluestone.
The for-profit also has started to install home energy monitor displays in every unit as a way to help educate people on the real-time costs and effects of electric usage. “The end of the month utility bill is an abstraction to most, including myself,” Bluestone says. “But being able to see the dollars-and-cents effect of turning off a TV or an air conditioner makes the point as clearly as it could possibly be made.”