Tuesday, June 17, 2008

House Hears Testimony on Green Communities


Last week, the House Financial Services Committee held a hearing on broad legislation aimed at improving energy efficiency in buildings and federal housing programs and encouraging the development of green communities. The Green Resources for Energy Efficient Neighborhoods Act (H.R. 6078) was introduced by Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.). The legislation is co-sponsored by Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and House Appropriations Subcommittee on Housing and Transportation Chairman John Olver (D-Mass.).

"This legislation proves that it is easy to be green," said Perlmutter. "This bill helps revitalize our economy by making energy efficiency practices more affordable, accessible, and achievable by consumers, businesses, and government entities.

"The bill aims to help local governments with green building initiatives by creating a new residential energy efficient block grant program based on the same distribution formula as Community Development Block Grants (CDBG). The legislation would also require HUD to overhaul energy efficiency requirements for all federal housing programs from Section 8 to HOPE VI. Residential buildings constructed with federal support would have to meet more stringent energy standards. The bill also offers incentives for housing developers to work with landscapers to plant and care for trees and outlines the requirement of a landscaping plan for assisted housing.

A major focus of the legislation is encouraging Government Sponsored Enterprises (Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) to expand and promote the use of location-efficient mortgages and energy-efficient mortgages. The legislation also amends the Community Reinvestment Act to allow financial institutions to consider energy efficiency improvements made by low-income and first-time buyers when assessing home values and loans. The aim, according to supporters, is to provide lower interest loans and other benefits to consumers who build, buy, or remodel homes or other buildings to improve energy efficiency.

With the backing of House leaders, the bill is expected to move forward later this summer.

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