A push by the Obama administration to promote "location- and energy-efficient" affordable housing got a boost this week with the launch of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities.

The office will distribute two-thirds of the $150 million in grant money Congress allocated in the 2010 budget for the Obama administration’s interagency Partnership for Sustainable Communities, HUD said.

Announced in June, the partnership between HUD, the Department of Transportation, and the Environmental Protection Agency will distribute federal grant money to local and regional governments and nonprofits, with the goal of promoting transit-oriented, mixed-use development, "land recycling," and "healthy, safe and walkable" neighborhoods (see story).

A description of the grant program is available for comment on an interactive wiki on HUD’s Web site.

The Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities (OSHC) will also invest in energy-efficient homes and buildings and renewable energy, HUD said today.

The office will provide a boost for HUD’s Energy Efficient Mortgage product and other energy retrofit financing options for single- and multifamily housing through a $50 million Energy Innovation Fund.

OSHC will be headed by former King County, Wash., executive Ron Sims, who announced his departure for Washington, D.C., Monday. His appointment as HUD deputy secretary requires Senate confirmation.

Seattle Times editorial columnist Joni Balter writes that Sims, the son of a Spokane preacher and "passionate booster of mass transit and environmental policies," has "undeniable leadership qualities that will be missed," Balter said. "D.C.’s gain is our considerable loss."

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