Utility bills remain an inconsistent variable in many family budgets. This causes significant stress for some of the most vulnerable communities: low-income, under-employed, and those with disabilities. As we continue to deplete our store of fossil fuel resources, energy prices will rise in the long term, while prices for renewable energy systems, especially photovoltaic panels and energy storage systems, will decline. Affordable housing tenants and developers will find significant relief from insecurities that come with rising energy bills if they live in and operate ZNC affordable housing.
Currently, affordable housing projects in Washington State can apply for funding through the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC), which are distributed based on a list of general requirements, minimum thresholds, and categorical rankings. As a tie-breaker, the Washington State Housing Finance Commission (WSHFC) has the ability to assign points to various Allocation Criteria, guiding potential affordable housing projects to promote the Commission’s housing priorities. We have suggested adopting a new Allocation Criteria within the 2018 Tax Credit Policies, using the Bonneville Power Authority’s Current Qualified Programs List (QPL) as the basis of a tiered energy efficiency point bonus:
This policy would directly benefit frontline communities that rely on affordable housing and are often deprived the benefits of stable utility bills and reliable housing. Though the financial benefits can be held by the developer rather than passed on to the tenants, stable and resilient utility bills will allow for more confident development and, thus, more affordable housing. We are also in the process of exploring models that would ensure that benefits accrue to the tenants in some way, via an owner-created fund invested using collective decision-making or direct utility credits.
View Other 2018 Shift Zero Task Force Initiatives:
- 20 by 2020 Building Challenge
- Energy Performance Disclosure and Upgrade at Point of Sale
- PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) Financing
- Roadmap to Zero Net Energy Building Code
- ZNC in Affordable Housing Tax Credit Allocation Criteria
- Zero Net Carbon Policy Toolkit