Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Guest Blogger Anne Marie Brady on "Breaking Down the Silos: The HUD-DOE Partnership In Action"

Since taking office, President Obama has created a number of “historic partnerships” between agencies, transforming conventional perceptions about how a department, and government in general, operates. The partnership between HUD and DOE, announced February 27, 2009, represents an opportunity for affordable housing to “go green”—a process previously perceived as too costly for many affordable housing owners and developers. Seizing upon this interagency mandate, Stewards of Affordable Housing for the Future (SAHF) and its members have focused on how the affordable housing industry can effectively obtain DOE funds through the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) to retrofit the affordable housing stock in the United States.

With the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), many DOE programs experienced significant funding increases, and in the case of the State Energy Program and the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) first time funding, thereby creating the opportunity for program expansion beyond the typical areas served. Historically, WAP has funded small-scale weatherization efforts of low-income, single-family homes, with little recourse for multi-family residents drastically in need of energy cost relief. SAHF and its members have urged the States to use these programs to provide for the retrofitting of HUD assisted affordable multi-family dwellings on a statewide scale, enabling not only energy cost relief, but the creation of hundreds of new “green” jobs to implement such a program.

Whether these interagency partnerships will produce tangible results for the effective funding of affordable housing under ARRA and future budgets remains unclear. Behind much of the political ‘talk’ though is a real impetus for change in how low-income housing is built, sustained and provided for as evidenced by the $250 million allocated in ARRA to the Office of Affordable Housing Preservation (OAHP) within HUD to energy retrofit the HUD multifamily assisted housing stock. Further, the confluence of housing and energy hopefully represents the beginning of many more examples of strategic partnership working and cross-department collaboration that has become an early hallmark of the Obama administration.

SAHF completed this document that provides an analysis of energy efficiency related provisions included in ARRA.

Anne Marie Brady is the Policy Associate at SAHF. Launched in 2003, SAHF has eight sophisticated not-for-profit members who acquire, preserve and are committed to long-term, sustainable ownership and continued affordability of multifamily rental properties for low-income families, seniors, and disabled individuals. Together, SAHF members own and operate housing in 49 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands—providing homes to approximately 80,000 low-income households.

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