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Posts Tagged ‘disaster relief’

Photo: Avi Werde on Unsplash.
“Rental properties,” notes Living on Earth, comprise more than a third of U.S. housing stock, [and] 40% of the U.S.’s rental housing stock faces risk of damage from climate disasters.”

When I was first visiting retirement communities, I noticed that the heat was turned up high. I asked in one place if residents could control the temperature in their rooms, and the answer was no. I thought about that when I heard today’s story. Renters have little control over the temperature in buildings and no say at all about efficiency steps to counter global warming.

Host Steve Curwood at the radio show Living on Earth introduced a recent show on the topic.

“CURWOOD: There will soon be funds and programs for homeowners to take climate action by installing solar panels and energy efficient heat pumps. But renters typically use a third more energy per square foot than homeowners because landlords often don’t get a financial return on installing expensive upgrades to improve insulation and HVAC efficiency. …

“But there are ways for people living in rental housing to go greener, save energy costs and guard against heat waves and other climate related risks, says Todd Nedwick the Senior Director of Sustainability Policy at the National Housing Trust. He spoke with Jenni Doering.

“DOERING: We want everyone to be able to play a role in mitigating the climate crisis. [Landlords] don’t always have that clear incentive to do so. So what kinds of carrots, or sticks for that matter, can help prod building owners to reduce their energy consumption?

“NEDWICK: [There] are incentive programs out there, utility energy efficiency programs, for example, that will help to offset the cost of making building upgrades. Those are really important resources for building owners, especially owners of affordable housing, where there really is very limited cash flow to actually pay for the upfront cost of some of these upgrades. And we’re also seeing policies like building energy performance standards, which basically require building owners of poor performing buildings to make upgrades to reduce energy use of the buildings. So we are seeing both carrots and sticks. I think what works most effectively is when you combine the two. So, if you’re going to have a building energy performance standard and require building owners to make upgrades, especially in affordable housing, providing resources to the owner to actually pay for some of those costs is pretty important.

“DOERING: And how do those incentives and standards work? Are they at the local level, the state level, the federal level?

“NEDWICK: [Standards] are typically at the local or state level. … There are several cities that have implemented building performance standards, and Maryland just became the third state that adopted a building performance standard statewide. And then for the incentive programs, typically those programs are at the utility level. So it’s utilities that are providing those incentives to their customers. However, state public service commissions really make decisions that impact the utilities’ motivation to provide those energy efficiency programs. Input from residents, from affordable housing providers, is really key to designing these programs in a way that’s truly equitable. …

“One opportunity for renters is community solar. We know that renters can’t control the installation of solar panels on their building, but they can access community solar, which allows residents to basically purchase solar generation from a solar community.

“Renters can have control over, for example, improving the lighting in their unit, using more efficient lighting like LED, as well as talk to their landlord and encourage their landlord to participate in some of these energy efficiency incentive programs. …

“DOERING: A lot of sustainable changes like weatherization, even some energy efficiency measures, may come with a significant upfront price tag. What resources are available to help landlords make these upgrades?

“NEDWICK: [Many] utilities offer energy efficiency rebate programs, which helps to defray some of the costs of the building upgrades. There’s also financing that can be available, a lot of green banks develop targeted financing programs for affordable housing, which provides the upfront resources that building owners will need. …

“Some programs [require] as a condition of receiving funding to make building upgrades, landlords have to keep rents affordable, they have to agree not to raise rents as a result of the upgrades that are being made to the building. … If 100% of the cost of the upgrades are being provided through these programs, then there should be very little increase, if any. …

“DOERING: Given that 40% of the US’s rental housing stock faces risk of damage from climate disasters, that’s according to Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies, how is this set to impact renters? …

“NEDWICK: In this country, we spend so much more funding on disaster recovery than we do disaster preparedness. And we’ve found that particularly rental housing, the disaster recovery funding often doesn’t reach renters and owners of rental housing. Typically, disaster recovery programs allocate funding based on the extent of the economic disruption from a climate event. And so that often correlates with higher property values. As a result, a lot of the disaster recovery funding, especially through some of the FEMA programs, really don’t reach affordable housing residents and owners in an equitable way. …

“The Inflation Reduction Act included a $1 billion program specifically targeted to the HUD housing stock that will allow building owners to invest both in the energy efficiency of the building as well as improve resilience. So we are really happy to see that level of investment and that targeted approach to addressing affordable housing.

“There are also programs in the Inflation Reduction Act that will provide rebates to both single family owners as well as multifamily building owners to encourage building owners to invest in energy efficiency, as well as converting existing fossil fuel burning equipment to all electric. [In] Washington, DC, where I’m from, buildings account for 75% of greenhouse gas emissions. So we’re not going to address climate change if we’re not addressing the existing housing stock. You know, climate policy is housing policy.”

More at Living on Earth, here, where you can listen to the show if you’d rather. No firewall.

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