A new report, "The State of the Nation’s Housing 2010," shows housing affordability can be improved by efficiency upgrades in existing home stock. Cosponsored by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, the report studied the affordability, energy and location efficiency within existing U.S. housing. For the first time, utility and transportation costs were taken into consideration as well.
The report found the sale of existing homes in 2009 climbed five percent, while new home sales were down by 23 percent. Much of the growth in existing home sales is credited to declining real estate prices, along with government tax credits marketed to first-time homebuyers.
"As existing home sales begin to rise, there is a great opportunity to bring the energy and water efficiency aspects of these homes up today's standards," said Casius Pealer, director of affordable housing policy, USGBC. "The report found that if all pre-2000 homes were brought up to the same efficiency as post-2000 homes in their regions, residential energy consumption would fall by 22.5 percent---reducing the financial strain on American families and directly tackling our collective environmental challenges."
The report also suggests that energy reduction tax incentives for green remodeling not only benefited the environment and families residing in energy-efficient homes, but proved promising for growth in the residential real estate market. Energy consumption per square foot of housing built before 1990 fell by 21.6 percent from 1993 to 2005. While this gain may partially reflect conservation, it more likely resulted from improvements that increased energy efficiency, raising the marketability and value of these homes.
"Sustainable designs and materials can help reduce energy consumption in new homes and also provide opportunities for savings in existing homes," said Nicolas P. Retsinas, director of the Joint Center for Housing Studies. "Homeowners have the potential to significantly reduce home energy costs."
When taking transportation and location into consideration, the report found that many people opt for cheaper housing that requires higher travel costs, which can actually reduce overall affordability. Families who sought to limit their housing expenditures either sacrificed neighborhood quality in closer-in locations or moved greater distances from urban cores to take advantage of lower housing costs, but also drastically increasing transportation costs.
To learn more about The State of Nation’s Housing 2010, go online.