Green Beans to Green Living

Friday, August 17, 2007

What's a sure-fire recipe for saving a crime-ridden, physically-deteriorated and very, very troubled apartment complex? The residents of the 83-unit Galen Terrace in southeast Washington, D.C. would probably answer "green beans, potato salad, barbequed chicken and fried fish."

Because that's the feast the residents prepared at least once a month to raise the money to buy their apartment building. "We stayed out there from 11 in the morning until 2 in the morning," 63-year old resident Nancy Copeland, a 15-year resident of Galen Terrace, told The Washington Post, "We made $700 and every month we put in a little money" in an account created to allow the Galen Terrace Tenants Association led by Yashonia Mallory, Wendy Hursey and Robin Farewell to exercise, under a local law, first right of refusal and to buy the complex themselves.

And lots of friends helped them. The Somerset Development Company and National Historic Trust-Enterprise Preservation Corporation agreed to manage the renovation. The District's Department of Housing and Community Development Department provided Community Development Block Grant funds. Its Housing Finance Agency allocated Low Income Housing Tax Credits and tax-exempt bonds purchased by MMA Financial. HUD agreed to a long-term Section 8 contract to insure a revenue stream and affordable rent structure for at least 20 years.

And the Enterprise Foundation brought a special kind of "green" to the table. In addition to purchasing $4.6 million in tax credits, under its Green Communities Initiative the Foundation awarded a $50,000 grant to insure that the top-to-bottom renovation was "green" - from energy-saving appliances to a reflexive coating on the roof, from a new and healthier HVAC system to low-flow toilets and shower heads, from stepped-up security systems to energy-efficient lighting. Indeed, The Post reported, Galen Terrace is "the first affordable housing building that meets the District's new "green building" standards."

It probably won't be the last. "Building green affordable housing is environmentally sound," explained David Bowers of the Foundation, "but it also offers cost saving benefit for the residents and is economical for the developers."

Ms. Copeland is certainly satisfied with the results. Before the renovation she dreaded going into her bathroom where the ceiling was collapsing. Not anymore. "The tub," she told The Post about her favorite new feature. "I can relax without having something falling on my head."

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Content Archived: September 09, 2009