Report Finds Onsite Water Reuse Can Boost Affordable Housing, Spread Climate Resilience

Strategic integration of onsite water reuse can bring financial and quality-of-life benefits to affordable housing residents, according to an extensive new study by the National Wildlife Federation. The report finds onsite collection, treatment, and non-potable use of local water sources such as air conditioning condensate, rainwater, and graywater can pass on long-term savings to both residents and owners of multi-family affordable housing developments. 

The authors also found that onsite systems in affordable housing help spread climate-resilient technologies to urban populations often passed-over in commercial water reuse and green infrastructure initiatives.

“Onsite reuse can significantly contribute to the broader mission of affordable housing,” said Jorge Losoya, lead author of the report and a water equity fellow at the National Wildlife Federation. “A strategic approach that incorporates anti-displacement strategies can lead to reduced water bills, increased access to green space, and the peace-of-mind that comes from a more resilient water supply. Cities, water utilities, and developers need to come together on maximizing onsite reuse in the affordable housing space by providing regulatory clarity, increasing incentives, and capitalizing on the many federal and state funding opportunities now available for reuse.”

The Via Verde affordable housing development in New York, NY features a rainwater reclamation system that provides most of the water needed for irrigating the complex’s green spaces

“Cities across the country face mounting challenges around both affordable housing access and resilient water supply,” said Jennifer Walker, a co-author of the report and deputy director of the National Wildlife Federation’s Texas Coast and Water Program. “Onsite water reuse can help address both crises by enhancing the financial benefits of living in affordable housing while also reducing the water footprint of new housing developments. Cities and developers need to focus on long-term cost-benefits and realize the tremendous opportunity embedded in simple, affordable water reuse technologies.”  

In addition to economic and resilience benefits, the report noted the quality-of-life dimensions that can accompany certain reuse methods. Projects such as New York’s Via Verde apartments, for example, have incorporated large roof-top gardening spaces as part of their rainwater harvesting systems.

Despite this array of benefits, however, the authors cautioned that onsite reuse has the potential to contribute to broader gentrification trends. They emphasized the need for cities to adopt anti-displacement measures such as renter protections and inclusionary housing ordinances in conjunction with promoting onsite reuse in affordable housing developments.

The full report is available here.

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