Texas Developers Can Earn Tax Credits by Building Green

Thursday, Jan 7, 2010  |  Updated 6:18 PM EDT
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Texas Developers Can Earn Tax Credits by Building Green

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AUSTIN, Texas, November 25, 2008 (ENS) - Greener, more energy efficient affordable housing will be the result of new 2009 rules for low-income housing tax credits adopted by the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs.

The new rules are known as the 2009 Housing Tax Credit Program Qualified Allocation Plan, QAP, and Rules.

The Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club joined national low income green building advocate Global Green USA as well as Austin nonprofit affordable housing developer Foundation Communities in submitting written and oral testimony supporting the expansion of the green building measures as part of the plan.

The groups also supported locating developments near major bus and rail transfer stations to encourage in-fill instead of sprawl and the use of public transportation instead of driving.

"The Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs has an important role to play in pushing and encouraging the development community to make more affordable, livable, and sustainable communities, while helping weatherize existing homes," said Lone Star Chapter Conservation Director Cyrus Reed.

"The agency has done its part. Now it's up to the developers to come up with creative applications," he said.

The new rules provide housing developers with the ability to earn extra points in their applications for federal tax credits if they meet certain criteria.

Developers can choose to earn up to six additional points for amenities related to on-site renewable and efficiency measures.

In what Reed calls "an added boost for on-site solar," the Qualified Allocation Plan allows developers to qualify for an additional 30 percent increase in their eligible basis if the housing development intends to utilize federal energy tax credits based on the use of on-site renewable energy.

Green Building Initiatives that can help developers qualify include:

  • solar photovoltaic panels for electricity
  • evaporative coolers
  • passive solar heating and cooling
  • solar water heaters
  • water conserving toilets, showerheads, kitchen or bathroom faucets
  • solar water heaters
  • Energy Star qualified windows and glass doors
  • thermal and draft efficient doors
  • exterior envelope insulation, vapor barriers and air barriers greater than or equal to Energy Star air barrier and insulation criteria
  • HVAC, windows, domestic hot water heater or insulation that exceeds Energy Star standards
  • bamboo flooring, wool carpet, linoleum flooring, straw board, poplar oriented strand board, or cotton batt insulation
  • water permeable walkways
  • collected water for irrigation purposes
  • construction waste management and implementation of EPA's Best Management Practices for erosion and sediment control during construction
  • recycling service provided throughout the compliance period
In addition, the QAP rules and similar rules for multi-family housing impose some minimum requirements for energy efficient appliances and green-building designs that improve upon previous rules, said Reed.

"It's up to the Legislature to enact additional incentives and requirements to create a market for on-site solar and energy efficient homes. At the same time the Legislature must spend the accumulated System Benefit Fund money to weatherize existing homes for low-income utility customers in order to bring energy costs down," he said.

The 2009 QAP rule is expected to encourage the construction of more energy efficient homes and promote the use of solar energy. The measures may help Texas reduce emissions of greenhous gases and other air pollutants, while giving some relief to those least able to afford high utility bills.

{Photo: Showpiece green built home in Westlake Hills from Shelter Design and Construction of Austin, Texas.}

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2008. All rights reserved.

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