Monday, June 8, 2015

Getting to the table early for green

What we're building
by Ethan Handelman, National Housing Conference and the Center for Housing Policy

Green means dollars and green means environmentally friendly.  Affordable housing stakeholders in every state can pursue both goals by getting involved with state clean power plans.  Energy policy may seem far afield; goodness knows there are plenty of battles to fight on housing policy. But getting involved early can help states meet their carbon reduction targets by funding energy efficiency for multifamily housing.

Here’s how carbon reduction connects to dollars for affordable housing:

  • States have to cut carbon emissions. Later this year, the Environmental Protection Agency will finalize its proposed rule mandating that every state come up with a clean power plan to reduce carbon emissions. States that do this have a lot of freedom to find the ways that work best locally. Among the cheapest and best ways is to make homes more energy efficient.
  • Investment in energy efficient affordable housing works. Multifamily housing offers lots of opportunity to reduce energy use. A recent study found that states could reduce 15 to 26 percent of electricity usage over 20 years in multifamily properties by implementing cost-effective efficiency measures. Cost effective means exactly that: the return on investment would be $2.90 to $3.50 per dollar invested.
  • State plans can provide financing. When states create their clean power plans, they can create financing programs for energy efficiency that can help affordable properties make the upgrades they need to cut utility bills for owners and residents. Some of these programs, like utility ratepayer-funding, can only happen through state action, so the clean power plan is a rare opportunity to make change.
  • Energy efficient affordable housing helps everyone. Residents spend less on utilities, leaving more in the household budget for basics like food, health and child care. Properties save on operating costs and make long-lasting renovations. States cut emissions. The federal government saves money through reduced utility costs.

NHC has been working with many partners to get the word out. The National Housing Trust, Natural Resources Defense Council, American Council for an Energy-Efficiency Economy, National Association of State Energy Officials and more are providing research and advocacy tools to help affordable housing stakeholders get involved at the state level. If you missed last month’s webinar, you can watch the video.

The most important thing is to get involved early. If affordable housing stakeholders are at the table early in the process for creating state clean power plans, we have a much better chance of making energy efficient affordable housing part of the solution.

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