Sustainable Affordable Housing

42 Pages Posted: 29 Aug 2018

See all articles by Andrea J. Boyack

Andrea J. Boyack

University of Missouri School of Law

Date Written: August 1, 2018


Sustainable real estate development is an essential component of intergenerational justice, in part because the real estate sector creates more than 20% of the world’s carbon emissions. Governments, recognizing that environmentally sustainable real estate development involves higher upfront costs, have encouraged green building by offering publicly funded incentives such as tax credits, grants, reduced approval fees, and streamlined permitting. Using market measurement innovations such as the Dow Jones Sustainability Index, investors can promote environmentally sustainable development by prioritizing real estate developers that embrace environmentally conscious practices. Even though real estate in general still underperforms in many other sectors in terms of its environmental sustainability, trends are encouraging. Commercial real estate has embraced green building as a concept, and the World Economic Forum predicts that approximately 55% of all new commercial properties in 2020 will be “built green.”

The affordable housing sector, however, needs more than marginal governmental carrots and sticks to be able to implement sustainability practices. Environmental sustainability will elude affordable housing as long as it remains in its current, financially unsustainable state. Government housing assistance programs are unpredictable, underfunded, and may to some extent perpetuate rather than solve the problem of housing need. The nation’s supply of affordable housing is rapidly declining in quality as well as quantity, and rising housing costs and stagnant incomes mean that an ever-increasing number of lower-income households must devote an unsustainably high percentage of their income toward housing costs. Our affordable housing system cannot go green until the system stops operating in the red. Properly conceived, affordable sustainability of housing and sustainable affordability of housing are mutually enforcing concepts. Successful housing laws and policy must therefore find a way to achieve both.

Keywords: Housing, Sustainability, Affordable Housing, Property, Real Property, Fair Housing, Gentrification, Green Building, Tax Credits, LIHTC, Housing Policy, HMID, RAD

Suggested Citation

Boyack, Andrea J., Sustainable Affordable Housing (August 1, 2018). Arizona State Law Journal, Volume 50, Issue 2, Page 455 , Available at SSRN:

Andrea J. Boyack (Contact Author)

University of Missouri School of Law

Missouri Avenue & Conley Avenue
Columbia, MO MO 65211
United States

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