Friday, September 30, 2016

Legal battle over Clean Power Plan continues, but green affordable housing work moves forward

by Rebekah King, National Housing Conference
On Sept. 27, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit heard arguments supporting and opposing the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan. The Supreme Court issued a stay on the Clean Power Plan (CPP) in February while legal action was ongoing, which leaves the status of the CPP unknown. A decision could come in early 2017. Housing stakeholders should continue their efforts to create affordable housing that is healthier, more energy efficient and better for the environment. The rationale for greener affordable housing is compelling on its own merits and we should encourage it through the CPP process and elsewhere.

The Clean Power Plan continues to present an opportunity to make affordable housing greener as a cost-effective way to meet environmental goals and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Once legal issues are resolved, states that are still moving forward will likely move to implement the plan swiftly, so affordable housing stakeholders should engage with new partners like air regulators, utilities and state energy offices. Preparatory outreach and education by housing stakeholders in states that have not begun working on CPP is also valuable, so that housing solutions are part of the menu of options states will consider using.

Regardless of the outcome of the legal challenges, housing stakeholders should seek out state partners in the energy and clean air sectors and engage in discussions about the importance of energy efficient, healthier and greener affordable housing. Affordable multifamily housing is a sector that has been overlooked in many places, but the benefit to low-income residents and the sustainability of the affordable housing properties would be significant. The CPP certainly provides a strong incentive for states to invest in green affordable housing to meet carbon reduction goals, but several states have already made those investments before the CPP was around. Other states may take further steps on their own if CPP stops. In any of those eventualities, a strong voice from housing stakeholders can encourage public investments in energy efficiency to include affordable housing.

The National Housing Conference will continue to work with housing stakeholders and allies to pursue more ways to invest in energy efficiency improvements in affordable housing. As part of this work, NHC has submitted a comment letter with partners on the Clean Power Plan’s Clean Energy Incentive Program, which gives states a head start on meeting standards under the Clean Power Plan. This proposed rule is open for comment until Nov. 2, 2016. NHC will continue to follow the legal actions on the Clean Power Plan to keep our membership informed. Creating greener affordable housing provides better outcomes for resident health, building quality and the environment, and NHC looks forward to its ongoing work to support green affordable housing.
If you want to learn more about how to get involved, here are some places to start:

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