Reports Document Potential to Reduce Energy Costs in Affordable Housing by Billions, and How to Capture that Potential

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*MFAH=multifamily affordable housing

Residents and owners of affordable apartment buildings in Illinois could net more than $2 billion in energy savings over the next 20 years by investing in energy efficiency measures according to a new study released today by a coalition of housing and energy advocacy organizations including NRDC. The coalition also released a complementary guide with best practices that can take us one step closer to capturing them. Combined, the reports provide the evidence and guidance utilities, regulators, and building owners need to improve the energy efficiency of multifamily affordable housing.

The first report, a "potential study" showcases the possible energy savings and benefits as a result of those savings for nine states across the country, including Illinois. The table below quantifies these findings. Benefits accounted for include gas, electric, and water savings, reduced incidences of unpaid bills, reduced customer calls and collection activities, reduced safety related emergency calls, higher comfort levels, increased housing property values, and health related benefits.

The second study, a "program design guide" arms decision makers with best practices for creating and supporting effective energy efficiency programs to capture the identified potential. The guide breaks down specific steps to address issues that have traditionally made it difficult to meet the needs of multifamily affordable homes. Below is a taste of the recommendations in the form of a handy checklist:

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Here in Illinois, we are fortunate to have one of the best programs in the nation for addressing the need and opportunity for energy savings in affordable multifamily housing. Many of these best practices were pioneered by non-profit partners Elevate Energy and Community Investment Corporation (CIC). Their building service, a one-stop-shop for energy efficiency, has retrofitted more than 500 multifamily buildings with more than 21,000 units of affordable housing since 2008. A typical multifamily building saves 30 percent on utility costs after a retrofit, and some save even more. Owners benefit from reduced operating costs that place upward pressure on rents, and tenants enjoy healthier and more comfortable homes.

The larger message the joint release highlights is that making affordable rental housing more energy efficient is a cost-effective way to reduce energy consumption, maintain housing affordability for families who call it home, reduce pollution, and create healthier and more comfortable living environments for moderate- and low-income families.

Both reports are the product of a national project called Energy Efficiency for All (EEFA). EEFA's mission is to bring together the energy and housing sectors to tap the benefits of energy efficiency for millions of low-income Americans. EEFA works with a range of partners in 12 states to promote effective utility energy efficiency programs for all affordable building owners and healthy and inexpensive housing for residents. EEFA blends expertise in affordable housing, energy efficiency, building ownership, and utility engagement and works to support local groups by providing tools and resources that can help them increase energy efficiency opportunities for underserved tenants in their states. Illinois partners include: Citizens Utility Board, The Preservation Compact, Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance, Energy Foundation, Elevate Energy, National Housing Trust, and Natural Resources Defense Council.

As the energy policy debate advances in Illinois, these reports show another reason why we should all support legislation that increases the energy efficiency standards that have proved so successful.