Interview with Shelley Poticha, Director of Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities

Shelterforce speaks with Shelley Poticha, director of HUD's Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities, about implementing sustainable policy at the federal level while encouraging local innovation, keeping down the cost of green housing, and effecting change while dealing with federal government bureaucracy.

In our recent interview, former HUD Deputy Secretary Ron Sims mentioned thatSustainability has to lift all boats or it is a failed exercise in policyand part of that included interagency collaboration and delegating more power to the regional and field offices. How are top-level initiatives implemented on the ground level?

First, for the partnership, we have a network of sustainability officers that are in our regional and field offices, and they meet on a regular basis [as] an interagency team that mimics what we do at headquarters. Then, a few times a year, we all get together either in person or on a video conference to try to figure out how, at the local level, we can be better partners for communities who are saying they want to solve problems in an integrative way.

The second thing we’re doing is that we’re starting to see the kind of core programs at HUD getting much more interested in going green on a level that wasn’t acknowledged even two years ago when I came in. For instance, a program of HUD’s Public and Indian Housing office recently staged a “going green” conference up in Boston. It had attendance from every major housing authority and a lot of small town and rural housing authorities. The level of excitement about infusing green and energy efficient retrofits through their regular capital investments was a very, very hot topic. Part of what we’re doing at headquarters to respond to that are (1) create some programs that reward housing authorities that do this and (2) revamp all of our computer programs, particularly in the public housing programs, so that we can better keep track of how many energy efficient units there actually are in communities. Frankly, our suspicion is that there are a lot more than we’re able to actually show right now.

Miriam Axel-Lute is CEO/editor-in-chief of Shelterforce. She lives in Albany, New York, and is a proud small-city aficionado.
Matthew Brian Hersh served as senior editor at Shelterforce from March 2008 to October 2012. He studied English at Rutgers University and has spent his professional career in journalism, policy, and politics.


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