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Energy Efficiency Spending in Multifamily Housing Triples in Four Years

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Energy efficiency programs have long failed to serve the multifamily housing sector due to several barriers to entry. With nearly 21 million (one in six) American households living in apartments or other multifamily buildings, this failure is widespread.

However, some encouraging news was detailed in ACEEE’s new report: utility-sector energy efficiency programs that serve multifamily housing properties have nearly tripled their spending in recent years.

Multifamily Housing Becoming More Energy Efficient

The threefold increase in spending detailed in the ACEEE report supports a vast expansion of energy efficiency products and services. More property upgrade options are now available to multifamily housing owners, many of which address retrofit challenges such as split incentives, lack of information, and resource constraints.

Owner buy-in for retrofit projects is often leveraged with other grants and incentives, which vary among cities. The ACEEE report examines energy efficiency programs serving the 51 metro areas with the most multifamily households. It documents those programs that have successfully tackled the above challenges and expanded their capacity to serve the multifamily market.

Map of multifamily energy efficiency spending from ACEEE’s 2017 report More Savings for More Residents: Progress in Multifamily Housing Energy Efficiency

Driving Forces in Residential Energy Efficiency

In the absence of a strong federal commitment to residential energy efficiency, state and municipal-level policy and investment lead the way. Many states have recognized the benefits of energy efficiency and already have supportive legislation and programs in place.

In the multifamily housing sector, this state-level leadership is critical in addressing the $26 billion dollar HUD backlog of deferred maintenance. Many local governments have adopted energy benchmarking policies requiring multifamily housing properties to track energy data in comparison to similar buildings.

These local policies have helped property owners achieve more efficient building performance, leading to more profitable, sustainable, and affordable housing.

Future Challenges

Many metro areas still lack comprehensive building retrofit programs. The ACEEE report points to 25 large metro areas without comprehensive retrofit programs, and 13 large metro areas with no multifamily efficiency programs at all.

Low-income multifamily buildings are particularly underserved. Low-income families often struggle to find homes that have both affordable rent and energy costs. There are currently only 15 metro areas that have programs targeting multifamily buildings with low-income renters — highlighting the need for organizations working to improve energy equity.

ICAST continues to serve the multifamily housing sector with an emphasis on benefiting to underserved communities, and will look towards state-level leadership to support this important work.

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