"We're creating jobs immediately by ...weatherizing 2 million homes...Why wouldn't we want to make that type of investment?" (President Barack Obama, Press Conference, February 9, 2009).
As Anne Marie Brady of SAHF pointed out in her recent post, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) included a dramatic increase in funding for Weatherization activities, with some states receiving as much as 10 times their previous allocation. While acknowledging that single family homes need and should be weatherized, the National Housing Trust (NHT) is urging states to ensure that low income families and seniors in multifamily housing have an opportunity to benefit from these investments.
One-third of households are renters. Energy efficient improvements in older multifamily properties would mean significant cost savings and healthier homes for extremely low and very low income families and seniors. Including multifamily housing is also key to helping states reach the goals set out by President Obama.
Right now, state administering agencies are developing plans to distribute these funds. State plans are due to the federal government by May 12. Many states are holding public forums. These forums are an opportunity to explain the critical need to make energy efficient improvements in multifamily housing and improve the lives of the low-income families who call it home.
Along with our partners, NHT is urging states to adopt a number of common sense policies as they develop their plans for implementing the ARRA Weatherization funds, including:
• Create a multifamily set aside. This would ensure that residents of multifamily housing have a fair shot at benefiting from these investments. Kansas has created a state multifamily program with 25% of their ARRA allocation. These funds will primarily be used for Low Income Housing Tax Credit, Section 8 and Section 515 rural development properties.
• Do not require landlord contributions. States decide how much, if any, a multifamily owner must pay to match Weatherization costs. With such significant resources at hand, states should no longer require landlords to financially contribute. Virginia used to require landlords to match 15% of Weatherization costs, but has waived this requirement, thereby reducing a significant obstacle to weatherizing multifamily buildings.
NHT has prepared a short policy brief with more information on best practices in weatherization policies for use in multifamily housing.
Todd Nedwick is Assistant Director of NHT’s National Preservation Initiative. NHT is a national nonprofit dedicated exclusively to the preservation and improvement of affordable multifamily housing. NHT have preserved and improved more than 22,000 affordable apartments throughout the country through public policy advocacy, real estate development, and lending.