What is high-performance housing, and why is it important for low-income housing?
Home is where the heart is, but for low-income families, it’s also where a good portion of their paycheck goes. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, “the average needy family spends more than 30 percent of its total income on housing” and “about one family in four spends more than 50 percent of its income on housing.” Inefficient homes add to the problem by driving up energy bills, leaving less money for other essentials like food and healthcare. As we look for ways to help those in need, making homes more energy efficient should be near the top of the list. Here’s why:
1. It Saves Families Money
This one is pretty straightforward—energy-efficient homes cost less to operate. In fact, according to Energy Star, “if just one in 10 households in America upgraded to ENERGY STAR certified products and buildings, we would save $26 billion dollars a year in energy costs while preventing greenhouse gas emissions equal to those from approximately 17 million vehicles.” That’s a lot of savings that can be passed on to low-income families struggling to make ends meet.
2. It Creates Jobs
Investing in energy efficiency also has the added benefit of creating jobs in the construction and manufacturing industries. A study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory found that every $1 spent on weatherizing homes creates “4 times as many jobs as $1 spent on new unregulated power generation such as natural gas plants” because weatherization requires local labor while new power plants often rely on imported parts. What’s more, these are good jobs that provide fair wages and benefits—exactly the kind of work we should be encouraging in today’s economy.
3. It Helps Combat Climate Change
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, residences account for 21% of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions—that’s more than any other sector except transportation and industry combined. Making homes more energy efficient is therefore an important part of reducing our country’s carbon footprint and mitigating the effects of climate change, which disproportionately affects low-income communities and racialized communities that already suffer from a legacy of environmental injustice. From heat waves to hurricanes, climate change creates challenges that these communities must face without adequate resources or support. By investing in energy efficiency, we can help them build resilience and protect public health long into the future.
Energy efficiency isn’t just good for the environment—it also delivers real benefits to low-income families who need it most. By saving families money, creating jobs, and combating climate change, energy-efficient homes make our communities stronger and healthier places to live for everyone involved