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Green and ‘Nutritious’ Affordable Housing?

Enterprise Green Communities encourages access to local agriculture — fresh fruits and vegetables — in its 2011 Criteria

Posted on Apr 19 2011 by Peter Yost

Guest blogger: Emily Mitchell, Enterprise Green Communities

With the arrival of spring, planning and planting for this year’s harvest is well underway at farms and community gardens around the country. More and more, cities, towns and community organizations are creating innovative models and even offering incentives to facilitate local food production, indicating that a healthy food environment is a critical component of community development and public health. In fact, research shows that better access to local food options typically results in greater fresh fruit and vegetable consumption.

Everyone benefits from fresh food
In affordable housing developments, access to fresh, local food is an important consideration when selecting a project location and planning for on-site amenities. Residents and building staff benefit from nutritious food options nearby or even on-site. Community gardens and urban farms can also create opportunities for environmental and health education, spur economic development and reclaim vacant and abandoned property.

Three options for local produce
The 2011 Enterprise Green Communities Criteria (2.12 Access to Fresh, Local Foods) were designed to include optional points for projects that offer this amenity. Available for all project and construction types, this updated Criteria measure awards project teams up to six optional points for compliance with one of the following options:

1. Neighborhood farms and gardens – dedicated space within the project boundaries or a .5-mile walk distance for food production either by residents or a local farming organization.

2. Community-supported agriculture (CSA) – designated location within the project boundaries for delivery of CSA program shares; supplying farm must be within 150 miles of the project site.

3. Proximity to farmers market – location within a .5-mile walk distance of an existing or planned farmers market that will operate at least once a week for a minimum of five months of the year.

Here are a couple of great examples of this work:
Common Good City Farm
Gardening Angels

We’re interested in hearing what approaches you’ve taken to providing residents and staff with access to fresh, local foods. Comment here with your best practices, so we can share them with others in the field. In the meantime, happy planting!

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Image Credits:

  1. ©Mithun

May 4, 2011 12:17 AM ET

I'd rather see affordable gardens than affordable housing.
by deniz bilge

While I agree with your comments: "Community gardens and urban farms can also create opportunities for environmental and health education, spur economic development and reclaim vacant and abandoned property", as an American who believes in peoples' freedoms and rights, cannot and will not support the concept of affordable housing.

(A brief tangent, then back on course to the affordable gardens)
Firstly, I'm not sure where we (America) went off track. Every American and immigrant once had equal opportunity in this country. They were able to eat, spend time with their families, gather in groups, etc., and had the opportunity to open their own businesses . The sky was the limit. The harder people worked, the more they earned.

Taxes and gov't regulations weren't the burdens they are today. It didn't take tens of thousands of dollars and months of forms and paperwork just to open a business or build a house. Between unemployment insurance, payroll tax, self employment tax, corporate tax, parking garage tax (local), luxury tax(local), road tax, sales tax, income tax, and then the building regulations, permits,gov't dept. fees,licenses,etc, I spend almost 80% of my income on some form of gov't payment. Then of course the rediculous prices of everything for no good reason.

Part of the reason that it costs so much money just to be alive today (let alone build a future and retirement by yourself) is because of wasteful spending such as union labor "laws", "affordable" housing, and unemployment compensation. Instead of the government discriminating against those who work hard to run a business by taxing us to death (in order to give my hard earned money to those who don't want to work),
(getting back to the point...)
I would rather see it used to provide work for people, such as public works jobs. Let a bus pick up those on welfare and they can go to work, cleaning streets, picking up dog mess, filling potholes, OR converting old parking lots aand properties(which our municipalities can steal through eminent domain (Ha Ha!) into community gardens. I do think that not only would we be putting people to work (and by not paying their rent and utility bills, they might just be motivated enough to get on that bus in the morning), but we would also be doing a great service to the community by having such an "urban" garden.

May 4, 2011 5:02 AM ET

Response to Deniz
by Martin Holladay

"Every American and immigrant once had equal opportunity in this country"?

Except for the immigrants who were brought in chains from Africa. Except for the Native Americans who were victims of genocidal war. Except for the indentured servants brought from England. Except for the gays and lesbians who were fired from their jobs for their sexual orientation. I'm sure I'm forgetting many other instances, but you get the idea ...

May 19, 2011 9:26 AM ET

Response to Deniz
by Joshua Owens

Deniz, I am trying to understand your objection to the concept of affordable housing. The concept is that a family or individual should not spend more than a third of their income on housing costs. I am puzzled as to why this is objectionable. It seems like your true objection is to taxes and subsidies for housing. While no one likes paying taxes, the effective tax rate hit its all-time low in 2003 and has since crept up only slightly (if you are paying 80% of you income in taxes I suggest you look for a better accountant). Housing subsidies are part of our economic system; over half of Americans receive a housing subsidy through mortgage interest tax deductions alone. Your suggestion that people who live in affordable housing (by which I assume you mean directly subsidized housing for low-income families and individuals) do not work, or want to work, is misplaced at best.

There is no county in the United States where a full-time minimum wage earner can afford market-rate housing. Even if their housing burden was only a third of their income, it would leave under $200 a week for all other expenses. I support affordable housing because I believe that all Americans deserve a decent place to live, but I agree with you that we must avoid wasteful spending. That is why it is so important that we use our financial resources wisely when we do invest in housing, and make sure it is built correctly and built green. Building green delivers significant cost savings and improvements in energy and resource use; create jobs and improve local economies. These savings are passed on to low-income residents and are put back into the local economy instead of down the drain, out the tail-pipe, or up the smoke stack. I would encourage you to learn more about how green affordable housing is changing lives and improving communities at

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