New Tool Helps Foster Efficient, Healthy Homes for Low-Income New Yorkers

New York’s housing agencies are adopting an innovative property evaluation tool that will improve New York’s affordable housing by helping owners invest in cost-efficient energy, water, and health performance upgrades.

Across New York State, more than 1.7 million families live in affordable apartment buildings. Owners of these buildings face challenges in finding funding for capital improvements, especially for big upgrades such as a new roof, boiler, or windows—many only invest in capital improvements once every 15 to 20 years when they re-finance their properties.

Applying for financing frequently requires a property needs assessment (PNA) to determine the basics of what buildings need to remain viable. Those assessments often overlook potential savings from energy and water efficiency improvements, and fail to identify ways to make buildings healthier and more comfortable for residents. This leads to unnecessary energy and water waste, higher utility bills for owners and residents, and missed opportunities to improve the health and wellbeing of low-income New Yorkers.

To tackle this issue, the Energy Efficiency for All project led a collaborative effort between the city and state housing agencies, NYSERDA, utilities, and financing organizations to develop the nation’s first Integrated Property Needs Assessment (IPNA) tool.

The tool is a unique product that wraps several disparate assessments into a single, powerful bundle. By combining a traditional property needs assessment with an improved energy and water efficiency audit, an innovative health assessment developed by LISC and Enterprise Community Partners, and a solar potential evaluation tool developed by Solar One, the IPNA provides owners with one product that will meet the needs of multiple agencies and financing institutions.

The IPNA builds on the Green Property Needs Assessment (GPNA), which New York City’s housing agencies – the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) and the Housing Development Corporation (HDC)—built and adopted in 2015. The new tool helps owners fully understand the needs of and opportunities presented by their buildings. It provides lenders with the information they need to underwrite potential energy or water cost savings into their loans, and streamlines owner access to energy efficiency programs.

The new assessment is being adopted by both city housing agencies as well as the state’s housing agency, Housing and Community Renewal, as a requirement for all owners applying for assistance with upgrading their properties. Helping owners make smart investments in efficiency and health improvements makes taxpayer dollars go further and will help to create healthier, more comfortable homes for more than 8,000 low-income New York families per year.

The IPNA takes a holistic look at a building, not only at what desperately needs repair, but at opportunities for cost savings and health benefits through energy efficiency, renewable energy, water efficiency and health-related upgrades. In the future, the IPNA could also include an assessment of a property’s resilience to climate change, such as whether it needs protection against flooding.

The unprecedented collaboration sparked by Energy Efficiency for All brought together multiple representatives from across city and state government, financing organizations, and utilities to work toward a common goal. The resulting IPNA tool is a big win for New Yorkers, improving New York’s energy efficiency, ensuring smart investment of public money, providing increased comfort for low-income families, and reducing operating and maintenance costs for building owners. If other states and cities follow New York’s example, the IPNA could become a model for affordable housing nationwide.

About the Authors

Lindsay Robbins

Senior Advisor, Building Efficiency & Decarbonization, Healthy People & Thriving Communities Program

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