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ACEEE Report: Nobody Left Behind: Preliminary Review of Strategies to Support Affordable Housing Compliance with Building Performance Standards

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Overview

Building performance standards have great potential to benefit residents of affordable housing, including with lower utility bills and better air quality.

Building performance standards have great potential to benefit residents of affordable housing, including with lower utility bills and better air quality (Nedwick and Ross 2020). However, affordable housing managers and residents may also face significant obstacles and risks.

In addition to a lack of awareness, key obstacles to BPS compliance for affordable housing property managers include the property managers’ lack of upfront capital, time, and technical capacity, and the issue of split incentives—that is, in cases where renters pay for utility bills, the property owner may not be incentivized to improve the property’s energy efficiency (Nedwick and Ross 2020).

Key Findings

  • As buildings contribute approximately one-third of total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the United States, there is an urgent need to reduce their GHG emissions. By enforcing targets for GHG emissions and energy use reduction, building performance standards (BPS) are a key policy lever for meeting decarbonization goals.
  • Education and awareness remain significant barriers to BPS compliance among affordable housing property owners. Many owners do not know the specifics of policy compliance or are unaware of the policy altogether. To address this knowledge gap, governments can increase and broaden their education and outreach efforts.
  • Affordable housing providers, community-based organizations, and other relevant nongovernmental organizations interviewed for this report do not think that federal, state, and local governments are providing sufficient financial and technical assistance to the affordable housing sector to comply with BPS.
  • Governments at all levels as well as utilities should increase funding for affordable housing to ensure equitable outcomes from these policies.
  • Local governments should identify potential synergies between BPS and other climate mitigation policies, such as electricity rate reform, to prioritize equity and energy affordability in the decarbonization transition.

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