Kansas City has taken significant steps to increase energy efficiencies through programs offered by utilities and the “energy empowerment ordinance” recently passed by the City Council.
The ordinance requires buildings of 50,000 square feet or more to benchmark and report their energy and water use. This will give owners, tenants, investors and the business community better information about their energy and water usage and will pave the way to conservation. The ordinance follows the adage, what gets measured gets managed.
As we move forward, it is important that those living in multifamily buildings are not left behind.
Multifamily housing ranks as the least energy-efficient building type in the residential sector. A report released by the Benningfield Group, Inc., estimates that 13.5 percent of a lower-income family’s monthly income is spent on energy compared to the median-income household, which spends spends 7 percent.
HUD-assisted renter families spend about one-third of their housing costs on energy while the average household only spends one-eighth of its housing costs on providing energy to their home. That is why, as an organization that develops affordable housing options, Blue Hills Community Services is actively supporting efforts to improve the energy efficiency of affordable multifamily housing.
A new multi-state partnership, Energy Efficiency for All, has recently released Potential for Energy Savings. According to the report, improving the energy efficiency of affordable multifamily housing will create significant economic benefits in Missouri with a return on investment of $3.20 for every $1.00 in improvements.
Increasing energy efficiency also provides significant benefits to building owners and residents.
For the owner, completing an energy retrofit reduces operating expenses, frees capital for maintenance, repairs, or other improvements and reduces tenant turnover. For residents, energy efficiency improvements lower utility bills, provide more comfortable, affordable and pleasant living space, create a healthier living environment and can lower the incidence of illnesses such as asthma.
Improving the energy efficiency of our existing affordable multifamily buildings is a critical component in preserving Kansas City’s affordable housing stock.
A framework to make this kind of change can be found in the draft recommendations of the energy plan being developed by state agencies along with housing and energy leaders. Meanwhile, utilities and regulators have opportunities to strengthen their Missouri programs over the next few months by using best practices that leaders in efficiency-minded states are putting in place. Their efforts can include:
▪ Develop programs specifically targeted to multifamily affordable buildings.
▪ Support a “one-stop-shop” where building owners can access energy-related services.
▪ Help building owners finance efficiency projects by tailoring incentives to fit with conventional purchase and refinancing loans, partnering with lenders active in the local market, and exploring on-bill payment arrangements.
Capitalizing on energy efficiency programs is an easy, common-sense way to help some of the most vulnerable Americans. It’s also an important step in helping Missouri secure a sustainable energy future. The time to take action is now.
Jill Lawlor is fund development manager at Blue Hills Community Services in Kansas City.