CommonBond Communities Teams up With GE and Minnesota Waste Wise to “Green” Affordable Housing

September 09, 2008

400 GE Volunteers to Transform Torre de San Miguel’s Homes in One Day

ST. PAUL, Minn.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--High-end commercial and residential developers increasingly promote their LEED building certifications to demonstrate a commitment to energy efficiency and environmental sustainability. However, such benefits have rarely been available to affordable housing developers and residents. CommonBond Communities, the largest nonprofit affordable housing organization in the Upper Midwest, is working to bring the benefits of sustainability to its properties and residents.

On Tuesday, Sept. 9, 400 GE volunteers will arrive at Torre de San Miguel Homes, a CommonBond family housing community in St. Paul, to stop soil erosion and runoff into the Mississippi River and begin implementing other environmentally sound initiatives. Under the direction of CommonBond, the GE volunteers will help install retaining walls, create plant beds, build a rain garden, lay an acre of sod and prepare the site for a future community garden. This effort is the last phase of CommonBond’s $2 million reinvestment into Torre de San Miguel Homes in St. Paul.

The effort will improve the site’s livability and reduce its environmental impact. Trevor Russell, Watershed Program Director for Friends of the Mississippi River said, "Through installation of rain gardens and other infiltration practices, this project is helping clean up the Mississippi River by reducing erosion and treating storm water pollutants on site. This is a unique development that improves both our affordable housing stock and helps improve water quality in our river."

Paul Fate, President of CommonBond Communities, believes environmental sustainability is an important addition to the organization’s strategic vision. “We see enormous value in incorporating best practices in energy conservation and waste reduction,” said Fate. “The opportunity to reduce operating costs at CommonBond’s 107 housing communities while reducing their environmental footprint is compelling. It’s also a great way to instill dignity and pride among our staff and residents.”

Minnesota Waste Wise, a non-profit affiliate program of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, joined CommonBond and GE in evaluating waste reduction and conservation opportunities at Torre de San Miguel Homes, a 142-unit housing community with 521 multicultural residents. Mark Blaiser, executive director, conducted an audit of the property last spring to assess what types of environmental changes would benefit the site and its residents. “This marks the first time we’ve worked with one of our corporate partners to support a non-profit organization,” said Blaiser, “and we think it represents an outstanding way to strengthen collaboration between for-profit and non-profit entities to improve sustainability.”

The GE businesses in the Twin Cities have worked with CommonBond Communities during the past three years in several ways. In addition to grants supporting after-school youth programs and employees conducting backpack drives, GE has painted the 24 floors of Skyline Towers, installed new blinds (to cool offices) and energy-saving lighting, replaced kitchen appliances and used floor coverings made with recycled tire materials. The GE initiatives have saved CommonBond over $200,000 through donated supplies and volunteer labor.

CommonBond, GE and Minnesota Waste Wise are committed to making green practices accessible to families of all income levels and spreading green concepts to the communities they serve.

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