The Intersection of Climate Change and Affordable Housing
As climate change continues to threaten our environment, local governments nationwide are making strides to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Concurrently, they are grappling with a growing crisis of affordable housing, including rental options. To address these challenges, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) has developed a toolkit offering guidance to communities on energy-efficient practices that benefit renters and promote affordable housing.
Energy Efficiency and Rental Housing
A well-known strategy for combating climate change, energy efficiency can also substantially lower utility bills. However, in rental situations, the power dynamics between landlords and tenants often result in renters missing out on these benefits. Property owners who implement energy upgrades may subsequently hike rents to recover their investments, putting tenants at risk of displacement. The ACEEE toolkit seeks to overcome this challenge by assisting communities in devising policies that protect renters from increased rents following energy efficiency upgrades.
A Collaborative Approach to Energy Equity for Renters
The ACEEE joined forces with local governments and community organizations to develop its toolkit. These collaborations focused on research, guidance, and sharing successful and emerging practices that would help communities tackle the combined challenges of climate change and affordable housing. The toolkit—available in English, Spanish, and Vietnamese—provides guidelines on energy efficiency financing, engaging property owners and renters, and institutionalizing equity-driven planning and implementation.
Innovative Strategies and Success Stories
The ACEEE toolkit outlines several strategies that local communities can utilize to achieve their climate, energy, and housing goals. These range from attaching affordability covenants to energy efficiency incentives, co-designing energy projects with renters, to conducting structural equity assessments.
Additionally, the toolkit offers inspiring case studies of innovative programs from around the country. These initiatives successfully balance the need for energy efficiency with the protection of renters, illustrating the transformative potential of such strategies.
Implementing the Toolkit: A Glimpse of the Future
Several collaborators on the Energy Equity for Renters initiative shared how they plan to use the toolkit:
Bay Area Regional Energy Network (BayREN) and the City of Berkeley aim to use the research and case studies to develop equitable programs and policies. They show particular interest in sections covering tenant opportunity and affordability covenants.
The City of Duluth plans to incorporate energy efficiency as part of its affordable housing program. They will leverage best practices and case studies from the toolkit to guide their actions.
Unite Oregon and the City of Portland will utilize the toolkit’s insights to design and implement programs catering to renters’ housing stability and energy affordability needs.
The City of Tacoma will use the toolkit to inform their Community Decarbonization Strategy, with a particular focus on preventing displacement due to energy efficiency and electrification improvements.
In short, the ACEEE toolkit serves as a comprehensive guide for local governments navigating the intersection of climate change and affordable housing, providing a blueprint for a sustainable and inclusive future.