The new Arbor Green Apartments affordable housing development in Carson, California is a great case study for how green funding can be leveraged. The smart development has been garnering substantial attention recently, not only for its many green features, its 90% dependence on solar energy, or as an affordable multifamily development, but also for the way in which those features and the development itself were funded. Arbor Green is an example of how a sustainability consultant can tie the developer, energy efficiency technology, the architect, and several sources of funding together to deliver a project that is a sound investment financially, socially and environmentally.

Compliance, Certification and Compensation

The recently completed $13.8 million Arbor Green project was developed by Affirmed Housing Group, and serves LA lower-income families. The developer successfully combined its goal to deliver a livable, affordable development with a focus on optimizing green features that reduce environmental impact. As a result, operational costs were drastically reduced, the affordable development received widespread media attention (including being featured in Tax Credit Advisors and in a Green Builder Magazine blog) and was fully leased within a month.

The development will be honored with LEED’s highest distinction: the LEED-Homes Platinum Certification. By providing LEED consulting, energy modeling, and HERS verification services to Affirmed Housing Group throughout the design and construction process, we were able to help them meet applicable energy codes, achieve LEED certification and leverage available funding to offset the costs associated with implementing energy efficiency measures.

In addition, Partner Energy advised on a number of energy efficiency measures to be implemented and reduce building energy usage. This included: high efficiency HVAC equipment, high efficacy lighting, energy star appliances, a solar thermal hot water system and a solar PV array. These items contributed to the building performing over 50% better than Title 24 energy code requirements and near Net Zero on its whole building electricity consumption. Additionally, the project features a high efficiency irrigation system, draught resistant landscaping, and low flow water fixtures in the residences to reduce water use at the site by 47%. These sustainable features enabled the project to exceed compliance with local energy and water codes.

Arbor Green – Affordable Green Living

Arbor Green Apartments is a three-story, 40 unit, multifamily affordable housing development. The units come in various sizes from one to three bedrooms, accommodating families at different of income levels 30% or less, 50% or less, and 60% or less of the annual income limit (AMI). To put this in context for Los Angeles residents, the current federal annual income limit for a four person household at 60% AMI in the LA metro is $48,900.

Arbor Green’s various green features will help reduce monthly utility bills for residents by close to 80%, to $5 or less. The amenities that residents enjoy, however, were not reduced in any way. Arbor Green has covered parking, an indoor/ outdoor community space, a BBQ area, laundry room, library, computer room and playground, not to mention the services the staff provides, from homework help to cooking classes. Arbor Green started renting units earlier this year and already has a waiting list.

The Payoffs for Going Green

Arbor Green is an example that shows that sustainable construction can deliver huge payoffs for developers. Through the commitment to green development, the project was able to secure close to $6.2 million in equity generated by federal housing and solar tax credits through Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) and the California Tax Credit Allocation Committee (CTCAC). In addition, the development was able to secure over $170K from the New Solar Homes Partnership, as well as approximately $60,000 in energy efficiency rebates through the California Advanced Homes and Savings-By-Design programs.

As demonstrated in the case of Arbor Green, the number and types of rebates and incentives available for green development is vast. It’s also continually changing, and varies depending on location and the kind of development concerned. In this increasingly complex funding landscape, doing your research (or seeking the advice of a knowledgeable consultant) to ensure you leverage funding and meet all applicable regulatory requirements pays off. The Arbor Green Development brought together MEP and Energy consulting and design teams, building owners and occupants to identify programs, incentives and energy efficiency measures to create the highly energy-efficient and commercially viable Arbor Green Apartments.