More than 20 million U.S. households are behind on their energy bills, according to data released by the National Energy Assistance Directors Association. While people who struggle to cover bills may be unable to afford costly energy upgrades, new efforts are in place to help alleviate the burden.
White House officials have announced new actions and investments from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that could drive demand for energy-efficient products, such as solar panels, low-embodied carbon materials and other measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
HUD announced an $830 million funding notice on May 11 for the Inflation Reduction Act’s (IRA) Green and Resilient Retrofit Program. The department also announced $4 billion in loan commitment authority for the program. The measure includes $42.5 million for a new HUD initiative to launch in the summer of 2023 to collect and assess water and energy usage from government-assisted multi-family properties.
At the same time, the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) is set to use funding from the IRA to update facilities around the U.S. Through energy savings performance contracts, GSA will bring energy and cost-saving improvements to 41 facilities, including 17 in Washington, D.C., and 24 across Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota and Wisconsin.
HUD, the Federal Housing Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture also aim to adopt the latest energy codes for construction. HUD estimates that adopting the latest codes would save building occupants more than 35% on energy costs. That’s in addition to savings that could be realized through energy tax credits rolled out with the IRA.
HUD also wants to prioritize using materials with lower embodied carbon for retrofits and new construction.
“These efforts will help scale up demand for American-made building materials that have less climate impact associated with mining, manufacturing, and transportation,” state department officials.
According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), such improvements are of interest to more than just government officials. In a recent NAR survey, 48% of agents and brokers say consumers are interested in energy sustainability. And 63% say they’ve found value in promoting those features within listings.
“While each area of the country has a unique climate and community resources, realtors are finding the need to embrace their clients’ sustainability interests,” says Jessica Lautz, NAR deputy chief economist and vice president of research. “Buyers often seek homes that either lessen their environmental footprint or reduce their monthly energy costs. There is value in promoting green features and energy information to future home buyers.”
So, what are the green features prospective buyers are most interested in? According to NAR, doors, windows and siding top the list at 39%.
The new HUD initiatives also include expanding the Green Mortgage Insurance Premium program, which has supported the construction of nearly 14,000 buildings. That program will now expand to residential care facilities, which White House officials say will provide more funding for new and renovated assisted living and memory care facilities.