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Household Energy Bills and Subsidized Housing

Household energy consumption is crucial to national energy policy. This article analyzes how the rules covering utility costs in the four major federal housing assistance programs alter landlord and tenant incentives for energy efficiency investment and conservation. We conclude that, relative to market-rate housing, assistance programs provide less incentive to landlords and tenants for energy efficiency investment and conservation, and utilities are more likely to be included in the rent. Using data from the American Housing Survey, we examine the differences in utility billing arrangements between assisted and unassisted low-income renters and find that—even when controlling for observable building and tenant differences—the rent that assisted tenants pay is more likely to include utilities. Among all tenants who pay utility bills separately from rent, observable differences in energy expenses for assisted and unassisted tenants are driven by unit, building, and household characteristics rather than the receipt of government assistance.
Incentives Report/Research Brief Resident Engagement Split Incentive Utility Allowance

Beyond the CFL: Winning Imagery for Energy Efficiency

Public opinion research demonstrates widespread support for energy efficiency among Americans. Yet, research also shows that in the context of broader energy issues, energy efficiency emerges as a relatively low priority compared to energy sources like wind, solar, natural gas and more. Those working to advance energy efficiency policies and practices have struggled to capitalize on positive views of energy efficiency to advance energy efficiency policies. Resource Media commissioned testing of energy efficiency imagery to identify visual strategies that can help bridge from the positive associations Americans have with energy efficiency to support for the bigger picture policy initiatives needed to advance energy efficiency at the scale that’s required. The testing confirms that visuals have the power to bring energy efficiency home for people in a way that is simply not possible with wind, solar and other types of energy. This is in part because many people have experience doing simple things to make their own homes more efficient, which allows them to relate to energy efficiency personally. The research likewise confirms clear challenges when it comes to translating personal support for energy efficiency improvements in one’s home to support for energy efficiency policies in commercial and residential building sectors. People most often view energy efficiency as a personal responsibility, and not the job of government and regulations. The research demonstrates that images can inspire visceral, angry responses about energy waste, get people excited about doing things to reduce energy use in their homes, and pique interest in how businesses and institutions are saving energy and money. Ultimately, images that tap into Americans’ very positive and personal experiences with energy efficiency generate the most enthusiasm, creating a constructive context for conversations about programs that drive energy efficiency in homes and businesses.
Report/Research Brief Resident Engagement

Making Green Building Work: The Importance of Resident Engagement

After a green affordable multifamily rental housing project is completed, either through new construction or renovation, will the expected energy and water cost savings actually be achieved? To a large degree, the answer depends on the day-to-day actions of the residents and whether they are motivated to conserve, either by financial rewards (e.g., smaller utility bills) or other incentives. Affordable housing developers and owners are employing different approaches these days in “resident engagement” – making their renter households aware of the green features in their apartments and buildings and trying to persuade them to adopt behaviors that cut their energy and water usage, reduce waste, and thereby maximize the performance of the properties. Admittedly, this is a tougher task at properties where the residents don’t pay for their utilities.
Resident Engagement Staff Engagement

Show Me the [Efficiency] Money

Five real estate executives weigh in on what it will take to unlock $1.4 trillion in net energy savings through commercial building efficiency.
Benchmarking Lighting Resident Engagement Retro-Commission Retrofit

Green & Healthy Property Management: A Guide for Multifamily Buildings

Through our work in the Green Retrofit Initiative we learned that there are many ways to improve the energy performance of a property, maximize the health of residents, and decrease safety hazards. In creating this guide we actively engaged three CDCs and their third-party property managers to comb through applicable green and healthy goals, the thresholds for action, and the responsibility of each party. In the same way, we hope others will use this document as an organizational policy, adopted by executive leadership, and a working procedures manual for ensuring high-performing physical assets while improving the health and safety of residents. LISC created this Guide to help affordable housing owners define and pursue measures to reduce the use of energy, water, and harmful chemicals in their properties, reduce waste generated on site, create healthier living environments for residents, and reduce the carbon and environmental footprint associated with residential properties. Owners and property managers are encouraged to review the sample policies and practices and tailor them to meet their needs.
Energy Audit Landscaping Property Management Resident Engagement Water

Five Strategies for Engaging Residents on Sustainability

New affordable housing can be decked out with all of the latest green innovations as well as energy-efficient and water-conserving features, but maintaining a green development after construction takes additional work from property managers and residents. Five nonprofit and for-profit developers from around the country shared with Affordable Housing Finance their top strategies for engaging residents in the green features of their communities.
Resident Engagement

Greening Work Styles: An Analysis of Energy Behavior Programs in the Workplace

This report focuses on energy behavior programs in the workplace, which are designed and conducted by building owners and renters to reduce building energy use through change in employees' attitudes and behaviors.
O&M Resident Engagement

Developing a Focus for Green Building Occupant Training Materials

With the shift from conventional to green buildings a need emerges to train staff on how to work within them. Building occupants control many of the green building technologies, which makes it necessary to educate occupants on the difference between using a green building versus a conventional building in order to secure the green building's success.
Resident Engagement

Common Ground Community Green Behavior Programs

In addition to our commitment to green design, Common Ground works to foster and promote healthy/green living and energy efficiency among the staff and tenants of our permanent supportive housing sites. Our goal is create a culture of self sufficiency as well as healthy living/green lifestyle among our tenant populations. Specifically, we work to offer our tenants activities and/or programs that promote healthy lifestyles and increases tenants’ knowledge of environmentally friendly practices for everyday living. We also encourage our staff to model healthy, green and energy efficient behavior for our tenants through established practices that we incorporate across Common Ground buildings.
Resident Engagement

A Retrofit for Sustainability: Meeting Occupants’ Needs within Environmental Limits

The terms “Sustainable Development” and “Sustainable Building” are often overused and ill-defined. A refocus on the core meaning basically results in two requirements with regard to buildings: 1) stay within nature’s limits, and 2) design according to human needs. In this context, the socio-technical system “dwellers and building” not only has to be “green” but “green enough”. There is strong evidence about what green enough means: altogether 80 kWh/m2a primary energy for heat (space heat, DHW) and embodied energy. Yet even in new buildings, almost nobody meets his dwelling needs with this small amount of energy. But the most prodigal energy needs prevail in existing buildings. SOLANOVA applies the know-how from new “green enough” buildings to a real retrofit of a typical building with 42 flats in Hungary. Similar developments contain about 34 million flats in Eastern Europe alone. SOLANOVA is meant to serve as a best practice example for all of Europe, and therefore, gets support from the European Commission. The project demonstrates how to stay within environmental limits while meeting the dwellers’ needs even in a retrofit situation. Initial interviews with all the dwellers in SOLANOVA revealed the topics that really matter to inhabitants as well as crucial behavioural patterns. These insights were fed into the design in order to exploit the full potential for increased well-being and energy savings of more than 80%. The retrofit was finished in October 2005.
Resident Engagement Retrofit

Does the Owner Resident Split-Incentive issue in Multifamily cause a roadblock to Energy Management?

In order for a property to be truly energy efficient, the interests of both the owner and residents must be aligned in favor of sustainability. Unfortunately, traditional lease arrangements often do the opposite, and skew the interests of both parties...
Incentives Resident Engagement Split Incentive