ICAST Experts Weigh In: Redesigning the Federal Weatherization Assistance Program

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By Ryan Kristoff | Vice President, Grant Programs

Mr. Kristoff grows the organization by securing the funding and partnerships necessary to build new programs, expand to new geographies, and add services to its one-stop shop.

In April, through Tennessee’s new Multifamily Weatherization Assistance Program, ICAST completed its first multifamily weatherization project, covering 80 units at the Summercrest Apartments in North Knoxville. The scope of work included HVAC upgrades, new lights, dryer vents, faucet aerators, insulation, smart thermostats, and more. This is just the first completion in a program that will provide services to households in Tennessee’s income-eligible multifamily properties and shelters over the next four years.

Summercrest is a perfect, ground-level example of ICAST’s broader efforts to scale Federal Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) investment in the historically underserved multifamily housing market. Since the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law was signed, we have been conducting extensive outreach and engagement to the WAP network for this purpose, through channels such as white papers, conferences, direct engagement, and more. We have crafted materials to streamline program design and implementation including language to update state WAP manuals and plans, RFP (Requests for Proposal) templates, and contracts, and we continue this effort in collaboration with WAP administrators and service providers alike. These materials have been disseminated nationally, introducing a new baseline for the program.

Examples of key outcomes include:

  • We have been pioneering advanced braiding practices that include financial resources that are typically untouched in WAP-for-MFAH projects, such as U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Healthy Homes and Lead Hazard Control Funding, and designing and documenting methods for replication by other stakeholders. This has included working to bridge gaps between State agencies’ new funding sources, such as the U.S. Dept. of Energy (DOE) Home Energy Rebates program and the Environmental Protection Agency’s Climate Pollution Reduction Grants.
  • We have been making crucial enhancements to tools such as categorical eligibility (whereby agencies may extend automatic eligibility to properties if those properties are eligible for certain other federal assistance programs). We specifically replicated the success of State-led expanded MFAH WAP categorical eligibility. Whereas DOE published guidelines to provide a pathway for HUD properties, we have built partnerships and processes in States between agencies to allow for the qualification of Low-Income Housing Tax Credit properties, which is a far larger MFAH market segment and have put this into practice in three states so far. 

There remains significant work to do, as multifamily programming for WAP is not “copy and paste” across States. Numerous considerations come into play, including policy, State WAP Administrators’ capacity, interagency cooperation at the State level, and more. However, we’re eager to navigate this landscape to continue delivering social, environmental, and economic benefits to underserved communities.

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