Today’s release of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan (CPP) offers incentives to states that incorporate clean energy investments in low-income communities as part of their carbon emissions reduction plans. The National Housing Trust (NHT) applauds the Clean Power Plan and encourages states to employ energy efficiency investments in affordable multifamily housing. Investing in affordable multifamily housing should be seen as a key resource to states drafting compliance plans. Efficiency investments will help states meet their carbon reduction goals and ensure that their most vulnerable citizens pay lower utility bills.
Tens of millions of low-income families and individuals reside in aging rental buildings that waste energy and increase energy costs for residents and owners. Yet the sector remains sorely underinvested by energy efficiency programs with real consequences for low-income families and their communities. When families with limited financial means are saddled with high energy bills that they cannot afford, they face the prospect of losing their utility services or, worse, being evicted from their homes.
“As an owner of affordable rental housing, we’ve observed firsthand how our residents struggle to pay their utility bills while fitting other essential needs, such as food and clothing, into their limited budgets,” observed Michael Bodaken, President of NHT. “The cost of energy is the highest controllable operating expense in affordable housing. Reducing operating expenses allows NHT and other affordable housing providers to maintain reasonable rents, invest in resident services and make necessary building improvements.”
States can achieve significant energy savings by targeting efficiency improvements in affordable multifamily housing. A study of nine states commissioned by Energy Efficiency for All (EEFA) determined that electricity usage in affordable multifamily housing could be slashed by as much as a third. The study, “The Potential for Energy Savings in Affordable Multifamily Housing,” also found that the benefits from making affordable rental housing energy efficient will exceed the costs by as much as 3 to 1. The study’s findings demonstrate that states can improve the cost-effectiveness of their carbon reduction plans by including energy efficiency in affordable housing.
The CPP rewards early investments in low-income communities through the Clean Energy Incentive Program (CEIP). Through this program, the EPA will make additional allowances or Emission Rate Credits (ERCs) available to states to encourage early reductions from energy efficiency investments that are implemented in low-income communities. CEIP will level the playing field for implementing energy efficiency in communities which have been historically limited by economic barriers, bringing jobs and lower energy costs to consumers in those areas.
“States should seize the moment and collaborate with utilities, communities, and affordable housing stakeholders to ensure multifamily energy efficiency is a state priority,” concluded Mr. Bodaken.