Low-income families can spend 20% or more of their income on energy. High energy costs in multifamily housing make it difficult for owners to sustain affordable rental housing for low-income families. The cost of utilities is the largest controllable operating expense in multifamily housing. Efficiency investments in multifamily affordable housing mean energy savings, lower energy bills, more stable rental payments, reduced pollution, and a better quality of life for residents.
Despite these many benefits, efficiency measures are far less likely to be taken in multifamily rentals than in any other type of housing. That is why in the fall of 2013, the National Housing Trust, Natural Resources Defense Council, Energy Foundation, and Elevate Energy came together to launch the Energy Efficiency for All (EEFA).
EEFA brings together expertise in affordable housing, energy efficiency, community development, finance, and utility engagement. We collaborate with state and local groups across the country, delivering tools and resources that help increase energy efficiency investments in their states’ affordable multifamily housing.
Support from Citi Community Development Allows Expanded EEFA work in D.C. Area
NHT and NHT Communities, NHT’s nonprofit housing developer affiliate, are working together on a 2-year initiative to promote energy efficiency and financial stability in multifamily low-income housing located in the Washington, D.C. market. This work was made possible with support from of Citi Community Development.
Utility Investments in Multifamily Housing
Citi’s support has allowed Energy Efficiency for All (EEFA) to deepen its work in Citi’s D.C. metropolitan area market. Team at NHT, and focuses on utility investments in multifamily housing. NHT provides research, data and expertise to help affordable housing and energy efficiency stakeholders at the local level secure funding from utilities for energy efficiency investments in multifamily housing. NHT has been working with Energy Foundation, Elevate and NRDC on EEFA in 12 states, securing over $300 million of private utility funding for retrofits in affordable housing. This new grant ramps up NHT’s EEFA engagement here in Washington, D.C., northern Virginia and Maryland.
Scaling up demand for efficiency investments in affordable multifamily housing requires well-designed programs specifically targeting the multifamily sector. This is a core focus, where NHT is identifying and partnering with the energy and affordable housing organizations that have the most credibility and the best relationships with the key stakeholders—electric and gas utility companies, public utility commissions, housing finance agencies and building owners.
In the Washington, D.C. market, NHT along with national and local partners, is employing the following strategies to achieve new capital for affordable multifamily housing:
- Bring diverse stakeholders together
- Develop innovative program designs, including one stop shops, that are key to successfully deploying new funding
- Hone a message focused on developing demand for these newly available funds by residents and owners in affordable housing
- Develop resources and guides for the expenditures of such funds
The second component of the Citi Innovations work, headed by NHT Communities in partnership with Capital Area Asset Builders (CAAB), is to promote greater financial stability in affordable housing communities. We know that energy costs and potential utility cut-offs are a significant burden on low income residents. If we lower those energy costs by retrofitting their homes, how can we assure that these savings are productively invested? CAAB conducts financial capability training for property managers, program coordinators, and social workers supporting residents in multifamily housing. This training is designed to work “upstream” to provide front-line workers with the tools and resources needed to help low-income families:
- Access resources to prevent utility cut-off;
- Manage energy use, and;
Achieve financial stability by accessing low-cost services and the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).