LISC Boston Thermal

Transforming What it Means to be Green in Affordable Housing

Deploying energy solutions so all Massachusetts residents benefit from a clean energy economy.

Earlier this spring, the Local Initiatives Support Corporation’s (LISC) Massachusetts Green Retrofit Initiative reached a milestone as 10 of our 20 multifamily affordable housing partners signed onto the Better Buildings Challenge (BBC). Started by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, the BBC provides ongoing technical expertise and support for building owners who commit to a 20% portfolio-wide energy reduction over 10 years. Combined, our 10 leaders own and operate over 22,000 units of housing across Massachusetts, and are transforming what it means to be green for the rest of the affordable housing sector.

But how did we get here? Thanks to the support of the Barr Foundation, more than six years ago LISC created the Green Retrofit Initiative, a program with a goal to accelerate Massachusetts’ multifamily affordable housing owners toward an efficient, clean-energy future. Through this initiative, LISC connected owners to energy efficiency and renewable energy funding options and provided them with technical expertise. Our building science partner, New Ecology, Inc., helped owners analyze their housing portfolios’ baseline energy use, and develop and implement strategic plans to accomplish their desired energy savings goals.

The results have been impressive. Through the Initiative, owners have successfully navigated Massachusetts’ complex utility programs to realize consistent and predictable energy efficiency improvements. From 2012 to 2015, participants experienced average savings of 29% for electric projects and 23% for gas projects. Overall, we have worked with 50 multifamily affordable housing owners across the state to benchmark 17,000 units, retrofit more than 5,000 units, and leverage more than $17 million in financing.

The experiences of participating building owners have also informed LISC’s work to inform smart policies for energy efficiency and renewable technologies for low- and moderate- income housing. We believe that the golden moment to achieve deeper energy efficiency savings and to incorporate long-lasting clean energy technologies is when an affordable housing project is slated for a substantial rehabilitation. This happens only every 15 to 20 years. So, the critical policy question is, how can we make sure it’s easier for affordable housing owners to pursue deeper energy efficiency savings and clean-energy technologies during this window of opportunity?

We believe the golden moment to achieve deeper energy efficiency savings is at the time of an affordable housing project’s substantial rehabilitation.

Our current work is dedicated to answering this question. We believe the first step is for owners to know exactly which efficiency and clean energy measures will work best for them and their specific projects. This requires comprehensive energy audits in the design process to illuminate what is possible. The second step is to collaborate with the state’s housing finance agencies, utilities, and other partners to make sure that, once owners know the best options for them, they will have a predictable source of funding to implement those deeper efficiency and clean energy measures.

LISC applauds all its Green Retrofit Initiative owners for their leadership and efforts in greening the affordable housing sector across the state. We look forward to continuing this work—supporting owners on the ground, while also ensuring that policy discussions are informed by their stories and experiences, so that all Massachusetts residents benefit from a clean energy economy.

In the photo above, Clifton Geissler, director of maintenance, Maloney Properties, Inc., and Dariela Maga, housing project manager, Allston Brighton Community Development Corporation, are pictured in their Allston–Brighton green retrofit project.

The Green Retrofit Initiative (GRI) is a program designed to help affordable housing owners navigate our state’s utility programs to achieve energy efficiency savings. In partnership with our building science expert, New Ecology, Inc., LISC Boston has worked with over 50 multifamily affordable housing owners statewide to benchmark a total of 17,000 units, retrofit more than 5,000 units, and leverage over $17 million. The Green Retrofit Initiative’s approach has demonstrated that energy and water retrofits can consistently result in 20 percent energy savings.

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Mike Davis, LISC

Mike Davis

Guest Author · Senior Program Officer, Boston LISC