WASHINGTON, D.C. /eNewsChannels/ — In support of the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas (ECPA), the Ashoka Changemakers is sponsoring in partnership with the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the American Planning Association to launch the Sustainable Urban Housing: Collaborating for Livable and Sustainable Communities Challenge.

This global challenge seeks to identify promising housing development strategies that are sustainable for low-income areas. Winning challenge strategies will be awarded a total of $10,000 in June 2011. The Sustainable Urban Housing competition ends February 11, and winners will be selected March 22.

In April 2009, at the Fifth Summit of the Americas, President Obama invited all countries in the Western Hemisphere to join ECPA to promote collaboration on renewable energy, energy efficiency, cleaner fossil fuels, and energy poverty. This focus was later expanded to include initiatives in sustainable forests and land use, as well as climate change adaptation. The ECPA Sustainable Urban Housing challenge was launched in November in Rio de Janeiro to develop low-cost housing solutions for the poor that are inclusive, sustainable, energy efficient, innovative, replicable and scalable. Two of the three early entry prizewinners announced in December were from the Western Hemisphere, winning $500 each.

The first project, Green Development Zone, was submitted by PUSH (People United for Sustainable Housing), a local NGO in Buffalo, New York. PUSH’s proposal was to demolish and renovate 10,000 vacant buildings in the city and concentrate on investments in affordable green housing, geo-thermal and solar energy, green jobs training, and urban agriculture. Throughout the project, the group involved community members and urban planners to develop a vision for the zone.

The second project, ¡Échale a tu casa! from Mexico, promotes sustainable communities through training programs in accounting, administrative support, participatory design, financial training and technical assistance for construction. With assistance from ¡Échale a tu casa!, experts and families work together to design the housing, produce the materials, and construct their communities. The program highlights the importance of economic development planning combined with physical planning.

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