Spotlight Report

Build More or Build Green? Affordable Housing’s False Choice

As we work to provide affordable shelter to tens of millions of households in the U.S., we have a choice: we can reinforce the exploitive systems that created our housing crisis, or we can support health, life, and resilience.

But the perceived first cost of sustainable and regenerative design solutions is one of the most persistent barriers to their adoption in the affordable housing sector. This report helps building practitioners break down that barrier by: 

  • Seeking holistic, intersectional solutions to the intertwined crises of systemic injustice, climate change, and housing shortages

  • Advocating for more equitable and responsible policies and regulations, from federal tax codes to local zoning laws

  • Centering equity and justice by centering quality of life and cultural responsiveness

Taking affordable housing from gray to green won’t be easy—but if we get it right, we can solve a complex network of systemic problems all in one go.

Readers of this report will be able to:

  • Reframe the conventional wisdom that sustainability and affordability are at odds.

  • Define and understand affordable housing in the U.S., including its impacts on the environment and on human health and well-being. 

  • Adopt systems thinking to simultaneously address the intersecting social and environmental crises of climate change, systemic racism, and the affordable housing shortage. 

  • Develop sustainability strategies centered on quality of life and culturally responsive community design.

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