A new National Consumer Law Center (NCLC) report calls on HUD to broaden its strategy to reduce energy costs across public housing. In 2007, the department spent $5 billion annually, more than 15% of its overall budget, on energy costs with much of the money used to heat poorly weatherized multifamily apartments outfitted with outdated, inefficient appliances. The report identifies actions that HUD can take now to save taxpayer dollars, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and benefit tenants living in obsolete units.
The age and geographic location of public housing drive up HUD energy bills. According to NCLC data, multifamily housing, which represents at least 68% of all public housing units, has the oldest and most inefficient housing stock nationally. These units are disproportionately concentrated in the New England, Mid-Atlantic, East-North Central and West-North Central Census regions. These regions have more than half the total number of public housing units, the highest energy burdens due to cold climates, and an aging housing stock with outdated heating systems. In the Northeast, 43% of all public housing heating systems are more than 20 years old; many use electric resistance heat which, though cheap to install, is highly inefficient.
The report cites opportunities to improve public housing energy efficiency across the board. NCLC recommends that affordable housing advocates push state level energy efficiency administrators to direct a fair share of funding toward multifamily projects. This step will ensure that more public housing units are eligible. NCLC believes that the multifamily housing stock represents a major savings opportunity for HUD. It urges the department to establish a long-term goal to slash its annual energy bill by $1 billion and direct the savings toward further repair and investment in affordable housing.
To read Up the Chimney: How HUD’s Inaction Costs Taxpayers Millions and Drives up Utility Bill for Low Income Families, go to