A national affordable-housing provider and a national environmental group on Wednesday announced the launch of the Green Communities Initiative, a five-year, $550 million commitment to build more than 8,500 environmentally friendly, affordable homes across the country.

The Green Communities Initiative–a partnership of The Enterprise Foundation/Enterprise Social Investment Corp. (ESIC) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), along with the American Institute of Architects, the American Planning Association, and top corporate, financial and philanthropic organizations–will offer financing, grants and technical assistance to developers to build affordable housing that promotes health, conserves energy and natural resources, and provides easy access to jobs, schools and services.

“Too many Americans live in unhealthy, inefficient and poorly sited housing that hinders them from reaching their full potential,” said Bart Harvey, chairman and CEO of The Enterprise Foundation and chairman of ESIC. “Enterprise and NRDC have forged an unprecedented alliance of housing, health and environmental organizations – supported by visionary corporate institutions and foundations – to ensure smarter, healthier homes are available to Americans with limited incomes.”

One of green housing’s major selling points is its aim to provide healthier homes. “For many families, asthma, injuries and lead poisoning are just symptoms of the underlying problem,” said Dr. Megan Sandel, a nationally recognized expert on housing’s impact on children’s health at the Boston University School of Medicine. “Inadequate housing is the real disease. Safe, decent affordable housing is the best preventive medicine low-income families can get. This initiative will ensure that thousands of homes and the children that reside in them are safer and healthier.”

The Enterprise Foundation/Enterprise Social Investment Corp. and NRDC are joined in the Green Communities Initiative by the following partners, who have made significant investments in the program through Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Equity, grants, technical assistance, training, policy advocacy, and housing development: the American Institute of Architects, the American Planning Association, Bank of America, Blue Moon Fund, BP America, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Global Green USA, The Home Depot Foundation, JPMorgan Chase, The Kresge Foundation, Low Income Housing Institute, Merrill Lynch Community Development Company, M&T Bank, National Center for Healthy Housing and Washington Mutual.

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