The Olene Walker Housing Loan Fund has been named the recipient of the 2008 Energy Star Award for Excellence in Energy-Efficient Affordable Housing from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Utah Housing director Mike Glenn said green construction helps people over the long run because "energy-efficient housing is more comfortable and helps reduce the risks of global warming. It also saves a bundle of money for our homeowners, reducing each monthly utility bill by $25 to $40."

The Olene Walker Housing Loan Fund creates and preserves safe, affordable housing for low-income Utahns. In 2006, the loan fund's board adopted a policy requiring that all Olene Walker housing earn the ENERGY STAR rating, the EPA's standard for superior energy efficiency.

Over the past two years, the fund has added 1,599 ENERGY STAR units to the state's affordable housing stock, saving Utahns $500,000 in energy costs.

Utah was singled out for recognition by the EPA from more than 9,000 organizations that participate in the ENERGY STAR program.

Last year alone, Americans with the help of ENERGY STAR saved $16 billion on their energy bills and reduced greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those of 27 million vehicles.

"Energy efficiency is important in every community," said Robert J. Meyers, principal deputy assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Air & Radiation. "Partners like the Olene Walker Housing Loan Fund are helping bring the benefits of ENERGY STAR homes to everyone."

The Olene Walker Housing Loan Fund provides "bridge funding," in the form of grants and loans, to affordable housing developers statewide. The apartments and single-family homes built with Olene Walker money benefit people with disabilities, the homeless and low- to-middle-wage working Utahns, including teachers, police and those in the service industry.

The program is managed by the Division of Housing and Community Development under the state Department of Community and Culture.