Better Buildings Challenge Multifamily Newsletter: February 2022

In This Issue:

Key Announcements

  • Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm and White House National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy will launch the Better Climate Challenge together with inaugural partner organizations on February 28, 2022. The program challenges partners to set ambitious, portfolio-wide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction goals to showcase their leadership in addressing climate change. Join the Climate Challenge by February 22, 2022 to be included as an inaugural partner! Contact Josh Geyer for more information.
  • Better Buildings, Better Plants Summit Logo Save the date for the 2022 Better Buildings, Better Plants Summit from May 17 – 19, 2022. Engage with multifamily peers, explore emerging technologies, and share strategies for energy and water efficiency, carbon reduction, workforce development, and more.
  • Join the Department of Energy (DOE) Building Envelope Campaign on March 2, 2022 at 3:00 PM EST for the How Multifamily Buildings Can Benefit from DOE Technology Campaigns webinar. Learn how your multifamily building can gain recognition through current DOE Technology Campaigns, including the Building Envelope Campaign.
  • It’s that time of year again…the Better Buildings Challenge Data Drive! Challenge partners are asked to report energy performance data by March 1, 2022 (and water and/or waste data if applicable). Contact your account manager for details.
  • State governments made significant progress in 2021 in expanding access to community solar across the country. Four states passed bills or expansions of existing programs. New Mexico adopted legislation to open the state’s community solar market. Delaware and Maryland voted to improve access to community solar for low- and moderate-income (LMI) residents. New Jersey is converting its Community Solar Energy Pilot Program into a permanent program. In 2022, four midwestern states – Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin – are considering legislation that would open each state’s community solar markets.

HUD Releases Climate Action Plan

November Climate Action Plan Image In November 2021, HUD released its new Climate Action Plan (CAP). The plan will guide the integration of climate resilience, decarbonization, and environmental justice into HUD’s core programs and policies. HUD plans to deploy the full capacity of the department to reduce GHG emissions and increase resilience to the impacts of climate change, while delivering on environmental justice and racial equity. Progress toward implementation of the 106 Climate Actions included in the plan will be tracked as part of HUD’s agency-wide Strategic Plan.

The Plan is organized around three overarching Climate Action Goals for programs and policies under HUD’s purview:

Goal 1: Increase Climate Resilience - Affordable housing is increasingly at risk from both extreme weather events and sea-level rise. HUD’s disaster recovery portfolio alone accounts for the Federal government’s single largest investment in recovery and resilience in LMI communities — to date, HUD has disbursed $90 billion in Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) grants. Through this plan, the Department aims to expand its climate resilience work to increase resources for grantees and stakeholders and make it easier for them to implement climate-resilient activities by:

  • Collecting more and more complete building- and community-level climate risk data
  • Researching the effectiveness of resilience measures and using the results to drive decision-making
  • Incorporating climate-related financial risk into underwriting standards, loan terms and conditions, and asset management and servicing procedures
  • Integrating resilience and environmental justice principles into the CDBG-DR program
  • Strengthening flood resilience standards for all HUD-assisted or Federal Housing Administration (FHA)-insured projects
  • Providing new and updated community resilience, sustainability and environmental justice training, and resources

Goal 2: Reduce GHG Emissions - HUD pays nearly $7 billion annually for utilities for its portfolio of public and assisted housing units (primarily through subsidizing virtually all property owner and tenant energy and water costs). This expenditure accounts for as much as 14 percent of the agency’s total budget. HUD aims to significantly improve the energy performance of HUD-assisted and FHA-insured assets while scaling up the deployment of renewable energy. HUD will accomplish this goal by increasing investments in climate and energy retrofits of existing housing, incentivizing green building design in new construction, and proactively advancing climate mitigation and adaptation strategies across HUD programs. HUD also aims to explore incentivizing or otherwise assisting communities to implement land-use changes that allow for denser, transit-oriented housing development that reduces households’ reliance on cars — by far the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector.

Goal 3: Pursue Environmental Justice - Addressing climate and environmental justice is at the core of HUD’s mission to create strong, sustainable, and inclusive communities. Environmental justice means ensuring equal protection from environmental and health hazards and providing equal and meaningful opportunity to participate in the decision-making process to achieve a healthy environment. In the CAP, HUD commits to a variety of actions to empower communities to achieve climate resilience, facilitate economic opportunities, and eliminate health risks caused by environmental injustices. HUD will strive to maximize investments in low-income communities, communities of color, and other disadvantaged and historically underserved communities.

Spotlight on Partner Successes

Solar PV panels installed on EAH Housing's Elena Gardens property
  • Challenge partner EAH Housing has published an Implementation Model on expanding its solar capacity to benefit low-income residents, with residents expected to save an estimated $2.8 million in electricity costs over 20 years. The company took advantage of California’s landmark Solar on Multifamily Affordable Housing (SOMAH) incentives to bring the benefits of clean electricity to residents of Elena Gardens Apartments and plans to expand its participation in the program to include an additional 13 properties in its portfolio. EAH installed Elena Gardens’ solar system, pictured, in two phases, which gave the local utility, PG&E, more time to install the transformer needed to accommodate a larger solar generation load. When finished, the solar PV at Elena Gardens will produce about 380,000 kWh of electricity and cost savings of $464 per residential unit. It will contribute to more than 1.7 MW of solar generation across EAH’s portfolio when all 13 properties are completed.
  • Challenge partner Aeon has installed more than 100 kW in photovoltaic systems to date, with another 200 kW pending, thanks to solar programs offered by Xcel Energy and the City of Minneapolis. Aeon received funds from the City of Minneapolis’ grant program to assist with the initial capital cost of installing solar on affordable housing in the city. Aeon also utilized Xcel Energy’s 2020 rebate program to cover a significant portion of the cost of installing solar panels on affordable housing.
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This material is based upon work supported by funding under an award with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The substance and findings of the work are dedicated to the public. Neither the United States Government, nor any of its employees, makes any warranty, express or implied, or assumes any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any information, apparatus, product, or process disclosed, or represents that its use would not infringe privately-owned rights. Reference herein to any specific commercial product, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise does not necessarily constitute or imply its endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by the U.S. Government or any agency thereof. Opinions expressed on the HUD Exchange are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official position of, or a position that is endorsed by, HUD or by any HUD program.