Boston LISC Staff blog

Better Buildings Challenge

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Last week, LISC Boston convened 20 affordable housing owners enrolled in the Green Retrofit Initiative (GRI) across Massachusetts to share success stories and lessons learned from the Better Buildings Challenge (BBC), a HUD program that provides technical expertise and support to building owners who commit to a 20% portfolio-wide energy reduction over ten years. At the peer learning session, three GRI participants spoke about how the BBC has helped them not only reduce energy consumption, but save up to 40% on energy costs.

Facilities and Sustainability Manager Elizabeth Merzigian, of Peabody Properties, Inc., said that participation in the Green Retrofit Initiative makes it easy to join the BBC. “LISC has already helped [owners] input their building data into WegoWise as part of their participation in the Green Retrofit Initiative, so the Better Buildings Challenge can link your WegoWise data to EPA Portfolio Manager,” the program HUD uses to track energy savings. With the BBC’s technical assistance, Peabody Properties was able to find additional groups that finance energy retrofits, and has seen fantastic savings. New Ecology, Inc.’s technical consultant Andy Proulx confirmed that BBC participants have saved from 20% to upwards of 50% in some buildings. As an added bonus, he added that energy conversions have meant building staff are “not changing lightbulbs all the time.”

Building owners are not the only ones who benefit from the BBC. Scott Ployer, Vice President of Facilities and Capital Planning at Peabody Properties, explained that rising utility costs lead to rent increases. Because the BBC helps owners cut utility costs, the program protects low-income residents themselves. Nancy Reno, Vice President of Marketing and Training at Housing Management Resources, Inc., added, “As we bring the residents in, they really start to get that buy-in and want to help save because they see the benefits of the program.” “I am an evangelist for the BBC, said Ployer. “For anyone who’s considering signing on, this is really a no-brainer.” Since Massachusetts has the best utility programs in the entire country, “signing on is a commitment to no-cost and low-cost energy reductions.”

Energy-saving technologies are increasingly complex, and the BBC is committed to training participants’ operations staff on how to maintain them. Matthew Holden, president of the Sparhawk Group, one of the building energy consultants for the program, said that the BBC has helped his owner partners save at least 15% on energy costs “by just paying attention to [their] buildings and making sure they’re running well.” He noted that the BBC will be supporting the training of “supertechs,” operations staff who understand how all the new energy systems in their buildings work.

Marcia Hannon, Senior Project Manager at CASCAP, Inc., a GRI participant that recently joined the Better Buildings Challenge, added a final reason for participating in the program: “Doing this is helping the entire country move in the right direction.”

So far, six GRI members have signed onto the BBC. LISC applauds them for their leadership, and encourages more owners to join this fantastic program that benefits affordable housing owners and residents alike.


Joe Kriesberg Receives Community Service Award

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Last night, I had the pleasure and honor of presenting Joe Kriesberg, President and CEO of the Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporations, with a CHAPA Community Service Award.

Joe Kriesberg has provided leadership at the state and national level for the community development field and all those concerned about low and moderate income neighborhoods for more than twenty years.

Joe has served as President and CEO of the Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporations for over thirteen years. I was board chair of MACDC in 2002 when we made the decision to hire Joe as President.  I count that as the best hiring decision I ever made.  It was in fact, a no brainer, as Joe had served very ably on the staff of MACDC since 1993.

As President of MACDC he has worked to increase the power and voice of CDCs and the communities where they work.  Joe initiated biannual MACDC conventions bringing together hundreds of leaders from all over the state.  These have now become a required stop for candidates for the Commonwealth’s corner office

He has led a renewal of the community development movement in Massachusetts by winning passage of a new enabling statue for CDCs and an updated state certification process that has focused on comprehensive approaches to neighborhood   development.

Joe led the way in founding the Mel King Institute for Community Building which has proved an important and durable vehicle for building the capacity of CDC staff and leaders and allies.

Joe has led on housing issues, serving as co-chair of Mayor Walsh’s transition team on housing and helping to win increases in housing resources at the city level.

At a time when there was a void in national advocacy, Joe led the way in creating a new national voice for community development as a founding board member of the National Alliance of Community Economic Development Associations (NACEDA).  Joe has been a leader of NACEDA since its inception and speaks regularly to NACEDA member associations around the country.

Though Joe never served as a CDC executive director or a project manager he has demonstrated time and again the qualities that all of you know are key to success in community and affordable housing development, grit and persistence.

His work to win passage of the Community Investment Tax Credit showed all of that.  Joe stayed focused on the goal and made it his job to insure that Governor Patrick and the legislature did too.  For a period of weeks when Governor Patrick’s support for the legislation was uncertain, Joe made sure that at every ground breaking or ribbon cutting where Governor Patrick appeared, he would be there and that the Governor’s office would be deluged with calls from community development leaders.   In the last days of this saga, Joe and the rest of the MACDC staff were on their annual summer outing, a walking tour of the African American Freedom trail on Beacon Hill ,when they encountered Governor Patrick walking his dog and Joe crossed the street to speak to the Governor.  The Governor responded, “You can stop Joe I will sign the bill.” And he did of course.

MACDC won passage of the Community Investment Tax Credit and with Joe leading the way to help implement the credit, $4.7 million flowed to support CDCs across the state in the first year.

I know Joe would want me to remind all of you that we have the opportunity to invest $60 million in the future of our neighborhoods over the next five years using the 50% Community Investment Tax Credit but we need all of you to join Joe in helping us make it a success.


Better Buildings Challenge Kickoff at Powdermill Village

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Michael Davis - December 8, 2014  Yesterday Peabody Properties held a tour of their energy retrofit project at Powdermill Village, located in Westfield, MA, to kick off their commitment signing on to the Better Buildings Challenge. By participating in the Better Buildings Challenge, building owners commit to 20 percent portfolio-wide energy reduction over 10 years. Peabody is 1 of 11 multifamily affordable housing owners in New England that have taken on this challenge and representatives from HUD, Mass Housing, Boston Community Capital, New Ecology, and LISC all toured this 250 unit, 12 building energy retrofit project that is expected to achieve a 30 percent savings on bills, cut water use by 30 percent and electric use by 50 percent. 


Highlights from LISC/Bank of America’s Forum on Greening Affordable Housing

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On October 3rd LISC and Bank of America hosted a forum in Boston on “Greening Affordable Housing” that was attended by over 70 people from across the state representing the private, non-profit, and public sectors. Bob Gallery from Bank of America and Bob Van Meter from LISC kicked off a lively session on opportunities in this sector.
The first panel focused on cross-sector perspectives and speakers discussed some of the biggest challenges Massachusetts will have to grapple with in the next few years to positively transform the fields of sustainability in our communities and efficiency in our affordable housing stock. Mariella Puerto, a Senior Program Officer at the Barr Foundation, said all new affordable housing projects should have a mandate to be net-zero. Ed Connelly from New Ecology focused on the big opportunity to reduce maintenance costs through improving the efficiency of affordable housing projects. Deborah Goddard from MassHousing discussed the importance of predictability from utilities’ energy efficiency programs when owners are seeking to do retrofit projects at the time of refinance. It was really interesting to hear Clark Ziegler’s, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Housing Partnership, input on how conservatively financing agencies underwrite loans- he conveyed that 12 of 13 projects they examined had seriously overestimated energy costs in project underwriting. Amy Brusiloff discussed some her work at Bank of America on sustainability and her experience developing and implementing their $60 Million energy efficiency finance program for CDFIs.


“El Barrio Tours” Screening - Rebecca Schofield

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On Monday, August 18th, a group of over 60 Boston area residents came together to watch “El Barrio Tours: Gentrification in East Harlem” at Villa Victoria in Boston’s South End. The event, organized by Inquilinos Boriquas en Accion (IBA), City Life/Vida Urbana (CL/VU), Right to the City, and Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative (DSNI), focused on the dynamics of gentrification in our city and how we could grow and strengthen the movement to prevent displacement.
The people at the El Barrio film screening were from a range of neighborhoods, backgrounds, and organizations. They came from East Boston, Jamaica Plain, Lynn, Dorchester, Somerville, the South End, Malden, Roslindale, Roxbury, Chelsea, Cambridge, Brockton, and Newton. Many community-based organizations, including the Chelsea Collaborative, Neighbors United for a Better East Boston (NUBE), Alternatives for Community and Environment (ACE), the Chinese Progressive Association (CPA),the Brazilian Immigrant Center, Roslindale Village Main Street, and the Somerville Community Corporation (SCC) were represented by staff, members, and volunteers.
Eliza Parad, a Community Organizer with DSNI, and Darnell Johnson, the Right to the City Boston Coordinator, introduced Andrew J. Padilla and his “El Barrio Tour” project. Andrew, a photographer and independent journalist, made this award-winning film in 2011 to tell the story of gentrification in his East Harlem neighborhood. The film was intended to kick off the evening, but some technical difficulties sidelined the screening and led to our first discussion of gentrification in Boston. While tech-savvy event organizers worked to play the movie, Eliza and Andrew asked the group how we recognized gentrification and what it meant to us.
A man stood up in the back to talk about the signs of gentrification in his East Boston neighborhood; “now people are talking about how there are families living in East Boston, there are people pushing strollers and raising kids. There were always families here, just not white families. It’s like we weren’t real families.” This striking comment kicked off a string of stories and questions about how the processes of gentrification made people feel like they weren’t “real.” A woman from Bridgeport, Connecticut described how highways were built through her city, around working class neighborhoods so that folks traveling from the suburbs or New York wouldn’t see the vacant homes and dilapidated storefronts.

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