In 2016, the MacArthur Foundation engaged RAND Corporation’s Infrastructure Resilience and Environmental Policy Program to evaluate its Window of Opportunity—Energy Efficiency initiative (WOO-EE). WOO-EE operated from 2012 to 2015 as a part of the Window of Opportunity initiative (WOO), which launched in 2000 with the purpose of preserving privately owned affordable multifamily rental housing. The MacArthur Foundation identified seven desired intermediate outcomes for WOO-EE, each related to improving the energy efficiency of existing housing stock to improve its financial viability, as a means of furthering the preservation of affordable rental housing.
In the WOO-EE initiative and in this evaluation, the term energy efficiency (EE) refers to technologies and measures aimed at using less energy (at less cost) to provide the same level of service, without necessarily modifying the behavior of end users. Activities under WOO-EE aimed to increase the deployment of energy-efficiency technologies to reduce electricity and heating demand in affordable multifamily rental housing. At a time of rising energy costs and increasing policy emphasis on energy efficiency, the foundation hypothesized that EE was an important way to capture near-term cost savings for tenants, landlords, and building owners and to improve the financial viability of existing affordable multifamily rental housing.
The purpose of the WOO-EE evaluation is to assess whether the initiative achieved its goals, as well as to provide MacArthur Foundation with lessons about the strategies of WOO-EE that could be applied to future philanthropic initiatives. To assess whether the foundation achieved its objectives, this report draws on interviews of individuals from 36 organizations working in the energy, environmental, real estate, and public sectors, as well as on two case studies. The report also summarizes trends in energy efficiency from 2000 to today. Through this evaluation, RAND determined that the WOO-EE activities had a positive influence on five out of seven of its desired outcomes for the initiative.
The report is intended for several audiences. The first is the MacArthur Foundation itself as it assesses lessons learned from what will be a 20-year initiative focused on preservation and applies them to the design and management of its future philanthropic efforts. Affordable housing developers/owners, advocates, utility companies, and those working on energy efficiency may also be interested in the report’s summary of investments in the energy efficiency of multifamily rental buildings in the United States. Finally, the report may help other philanthropies apply relevant lessons to their own philanthropic initiatives, even if they do not pertain to housing.