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NEW ORLEANS (press release) — Elemental Excelerator, a nonprofit investor, and Finance New Orleans, a housing and development finance agency, have launched a housing fund and innovation challenge with the goal of using community-centered financing to deploy climate technologies in new and retrofitted single-family homes.

The initial $2 million fund, alongside the existing FNO Green Mortgages Program, will finance the development of well-built, resilient homes in New Orleans that are responsive to local climate and context while incorporating sustainable technology in home design, construction and operation. 

The NOLA Affordable and Resilient Homes Challenge, set to open applications in March, will initially fund the development and retrofit of six sites in the Gentilly and Pontchartrain Park neighborhoods as well as fund innovative clean energy and water efficiency technologies. The solutions demonstrated in New Orleans will be replicable by housing development organizations for cities across the U.S. The innovation challenge is a tool that Elemental created to unlock a deep pool of entrepreneurs, dedicated funds and key decision makers to drive concrete results. 

With the increasing intensity and frequency of climate-related events, it is vital to not only innovate the processes, materials and technologies in home construction to mitigate the impact of climate change, but it is also critical to develop new ways to finance the development, retrofit and pathways to affordable home ownership in communities across the country. The $2M fund and NOLA Affordable and Resilient Homes Challenge seek to bring together forward-thinking entrepreneurs, funders, community members, public agencies and housing developers to use new financing tools and blended investments to create more climate-responsive, affordable housing that meets the present and future needs of New Orleanians.   

“New Orleans has long been a city with a rich tapestry of history and culture but is committed to improving and adapting to new ways of how we better serve our residents,” Mayor LaToya Cantrell said. “The NOLA Affordable and Resilient Homes Challenge demonstrates how we are leveraging green financial strategies and technologies for key climate projects that will lead to a more resilient and sustainable city. We are excited to see our local businesses, entrepreneurs and developers collaborate to bring more climate-friendly, affordable housing to our community. These types of innovative partnerships are helping build a better, cleaner, greener and brighter future for our people.”

One of the ways in which this Challenge is novel is that it includes a community and stakeholder engagement phase, commencing this month, to embed meaningful local input in solution selection and deployment. Elemental and Finance New Orleans will partner with the National Association of Local Housing Finance Authorities (NALHFA) and other local housing authorities to advise on this challenge. In addition, the Coalition of Green Capital (CGC) will work with Elemental and Finance New Orleans to amplify best practices from the Challenge across its broad network of state and local green banks, CDFIs and other finance institutions. 

“Building strong communities through homeownership is crucial as we address the pressing challenges of climate change, housing affordability and energy costs,” Finance New Orleans CEO Damon Burns said. “This partnership with Elemental is yet another step forward in serving the New Orleans community and setting an example for other local and national housing finance organizations to innovate in the ways we drive sustainable solutions for the challenges we face today.” 

“Elemental is thrilled to invest with Finance New Orleans in a way that brings innovation to communities and improves health and affordability,” Elemental Excelerator COO Avra van der Zee said. “This moment requires new, creative ways to finance renewable energy and energy efficiency so that families can truly benefit, and we’re excited to launch the first of many such collaborations around the country.” 

“We are honored to support this Innovation Challenge as a prime example of how our nationwide network can accelerate green technology and increase energy abundance by, for and with communities,” Coalition for Green Capital Executive Director & COO Eli Hopson said.

“Accelerating the adoption of environmentally friendly affordable housing solutions not only creates more resilient and eco-friendly communities but it also helps local economies and increases job growth by leveraging public and private funds to increase earnings, increase tax revenue and put people to work. NALHFA-member Finance New Orleans and its partners are leading the way in creating replicable models for affordable homes that are also resilient and sustainable – we look forward to bringing this type of innovation to our nationwide network,” National Association of Local Housing Finance Agencies President and Executive Vice President & COO of Invest Atlanta Dawn Arnold said.

As Elemental and Finance New Orleans deepen this collaboration, they look forward to co-creating climate innovation strategies with New Orleanians to achieve lasting positive impact for housing development, economic growth and community resilience. To learn more and get involved, sign up here to help shape the future of sustainable housing in New Orleans.


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