Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco

Community Development

The Green Issue - Volume 10, Issue 1

March 2014

Foreword

Bruce Schlein, Director

Corporate Sustainability, Citi

Community Development Investment Review

Communities, people, and the natural and built environments within which they live are, and always have been, inextricably linked. While this is stating the obvious, it is pointed out in the context of this issue of the CDIR because the disciplines and organizations that seek to improve communities and the environment have not always been as linked as the constituent parts they serve.

There are good reasons for this, perhaps the most notable being that disciplines require degrees of specialization that can create silos. Optimizing the balance between specialization and integration is a longstanding challenge. Too much specialization and we might miss out on critical connections and opportunities. Too much integration and we run the risk of tackling everything, and therefore nothing.

Community development and environment are illustrative of this dynamic. There have been strong interdisciplinary efforts, particularly community groups that have pursued environmental issues from the perspective of social justice. And there have been isolated efforts, ones that have delivered results in one but not both dimensions, and in the worst case actually come at the expense of the “other” dimension.

Several trends are driving more interdisciplinary efforts, including increasing environmental pressures, urbanization and digitization. Climate change, for example, and resulting intense weather events, as well as urbanization and growing populations, are both putting pressure on urban infrastructure and systems. Digitization is providing community and environmental groups with new tools for understanding and managing integrated issues and solutions. All of this taken together is driving new approaches to community and environmental issues with direct bearing on community assets, employment and enterprise opportunities, and public health.

This issue of the Community Development Investment Review highlights a number of deliberate, innovative interdisciplinary efforts that seek to concurrently and holistically address community development and environmental issues. Many of them focus on cities and their surroundings. They are diverse in the combination of issues they touch and address including air quality, climate change, water access on the environmental side, and education, health, and affordable housing on the community development side. And they are diverse in their range of approaches and partnerships. 

Contributors and their organizations and partners are finding and leveraging direct and ancillary benefits. CFED’s Andrea Levere, in her piece “Mixing Asset Building with Energy Efficiency: A Recipe for Financial and Environmental Sustainability” shows how cost savings associated with household energy improvements and behavior change builds assets and reduces environmental impact. Kim Dempsey and Jennifer Afdahl Rice of Capital Impact Partners explore how green schools can have a direct impact on student health and performance in “Charter Schools Ripe for Green Investments.” And ACEEE’s Casey Bell, in “Understanding the True Benefits of both Energy Efficiency and Job Creation” helps illuminate issues related to green jobs. Connections within and between articles illustrate the complexities and potential of multidisciplinary efforts and co-benefits.

Interdisciplinary partnerships at Citi–both internally and externally–have been instrumental to our understanding of these issues and the related development of solutions. Citi has had the good fortune to collaborate with many of the groups that contributed articles as we have worked together to pursue finance solutions that help scale activity and impact. Many of the examples in this issue explore fragmented and decentralized activity; activity that needs to be aggregated and standardized to reach sufficient scale and for more efficient execution, including with respect to deploying capital. Through the Citi for Cities platform, Citi is leading the pursuit of solutions in this space. 

This issue of the Review, with respect to Citi’s role, was a partnership between Corporate Sustainability, and Citi Foundation and Citi Community Development; the latter represented by Kristen Scheyder and Laura Sparks (now with William Penn Foundation). About two years ago, Laura and I met, discussed our respective bodies of work and realized untapped ways in which they were complementary. That prompted a conversation with the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco’s David Erickson, who gave Kristen and me a green light to develop an outline of articles and authors. I would like to thank all of the aforementioned individuals, the authors in this issue, and Citi’s heads of Corporate Sustainability and Citi Foundation, Pam Flaherty and Brandee Mchale for their leadership and support.

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Table of Contents

Mixing Asset Building with Energy Efficiency: A Recipe for Financial and Environmental Sustainability

The growing connection between energy efficiency and savings is just one of many integrated approaches that are defining the future of social policy.

The Future of the Clean (Green) Economy

This article describes the trends and job prospects in the clean economy, with an emphasis on the clean energy sector.

Cleaner Energy and Health: Household, Local and Global Benefits

Energy is central to the very service systems that sustain human life and well-being such as transportation, buildings, materials, infrastructure, food, hygiene, thermal comfort, communications, and lighting. But how we choose to supply energy can also have negative consequences such as water scarcity, air pollution, and extreme weather related events.

Financing Energy Efficiency Retrofits of Affordable Multifamily Buildings

This paper reviews the challenges facing the multifamily housing energy efficiency market and the opportunity that tools such as on-bill repayment provide to finance energy efficiency retrofits for the subsidized affordable multifamily market.

Manufactured Homes Help Both Save the Planet and Save Money for Low-Income Owners

Addressing affordable housing while simultaneously reducing pollution seems like an impossible task. Yet manufactured housing can do just that.

Utilities and Community Developers Partner to Improve the Energy Efficiency of Affordable Rental Housing Nationwide

Improving the energy efficiency in homes is an important strategy for reducing poverty’s impact on low-income families.

Integrating Energy Efficiency into Mortgage Financing: Promising Efforts in the New York City Multifamily Building Sector

From the vantage point of Deutsche Bank’s community development activities, we see some promising initiatives that treat energy efficiency upgrades not as a separate, stand-alone transaction, but as a component in existing transactional frameworks, namely the multifamily mortgage refinancing process.

Home Energy Efficiency and Mortgage Risks: An Extended Abstract

This paper provides initial evidence of the associative relationship between home energy efficiency and mortgage risks.

Charter Schools Ripe for Green Investments

Green schools promote a healthy, productive learning environment, improved teacher retention, hands-on learning opportunities, and environmental stewardship. In addition, green schools can serve as examples in their communities, providing opportunities to share the lessons and rewards of sustainable development.

Financing Energy Efficiency in Low-Income Multifamily Rental Housing: A Progress Update from the Low Income Investment Fund

Although markets for retrofitting commercial properties and single family homes are developing, many low-income people are still waiting on the sidelines to partake in benefits.

Neighborhood Health: A New Framework for Investing in Sustainable Communities

Sustainability advocates have historically focused on building-level performance, with a particular emphasis on energy, water, and waste management. This emphasis on the building as a stand-alone structure, separate from its neighborhood context, reflects both the challenges of neighborhood-scale data gathering and the fragmented nature of neighborhood development in the United States.

Bringing Down Green Financing Costs: How a State-sponsored Bank Might be the Key

Despite nearly record low interest rates, financing costs for the clean energy sector remain high—not for the largest, utility scale projects—but for smaller projects, including small business and residential.

Understanding the True Benefits of both Energy Efficiency and Job Creation

The means through which investment in energy efficiency stimulates net job creation are complex and often misunderstood. In order to increase and maintain support for energy efficiency policies and programs, it is important to flesh out the underlying economic argument and assumptions that drive preliminary analyses.

Can Cities Lead the Way in Innovative Energy Retrofits for Single-Family Homes?

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 pointed to an era of expanded energy efficiency. The future looked exceedingly energy efficient. However, behind the promise lurked several issues.

Lenders’ Property Standards and Energy Efficiency: The Vital Link for Affordable Housing

Whether housing is, in fact, affordable for an individual or family depends not only on the nominal rent or mortgage payment but also on expenses such as utility payments, transportation costs, and home maintenance.

Energy to Heal: Health Care, Climate Change, and Community Resilience

Today, the health care sector has a critical role to play in both reducing climate change effects and improving the resilience of the communities it serves.