Bring the Green to Rental Buildings

Given all the emphasis on green jobs and energy efficiency in the Obama administration, it’s not surprising that these uses are targeted by a huge chunk of the economic stimulus money now flowing to the states and on to cities and towns. But the states and localities have significant free rein and how they spread the money around. Funds to weatherize homes are a hot topic at the moment at the state level, as state housing and community development agencies decide which non-profit groups will get a piece of the energy efficiency pie.

National Housing Trust, NeighborWorks and Enterprise Community Partners put together policy guidance recently for advocates hoping to use more of the weatherization money for large, multifamily rental buildings. Historically states have tended to direct weatherization resources toward single family houses, perhaps assuming that single home owners would be less likely to have capacity to install insulation or even caulk their drafty windows. But as the policy guidance points out, many multifamily buildings are aging and have the same problems. But the CDCs and other housing groups that manage or own these buildings are often in no position to undertake this expensive work.

Massachusetts’ CDC network sent a letter to its state housing agency late last month asking that the state prioritize the interests of CDC-owned multifamily properties as well as those the community action agencies that have done most weatherization work in the past. Many CDCs would like to take advantage of the excitement about energy efficiency to retrofit their buildings to make them green. With so many housing units going green in concentrated locations, these buildings would be great models for the cities they are in.

David Holtzman is a planner for Louisa County, Virginia, a freelance writer, and a former Shelterforce editor.


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