Energy Equity for Renters

August 2, 2021
energy efficiency equity for renters

ACEEE’s initiative for affordable, energy-efficient housing for renters


Research Spotlight:

Guide for local governments. Our guide presents a series of actions that local governments can take to reduce energy use in rental properties, preserve or increase housing affordability, and build capacity to design, implement, and evaluate equitable policies.

Toolkit for local governments. Our rental housing energy efficiency toolkit provides research and case studies on integrated energy efficiency and anti-displacement strategies, roles for local government in filling financing and funding gaps, stakeholder and community engagement, and comprehensive equity accountability measures.

Fact sheet. This resource provides a high-level summary of the different sections of the toolkit. In addition to English, it is available in Arabic, Somali, Spanish, Swahili, and Vietnamese.

Policy tracker. See which cities, counties, and states have adopted equitable energy efficiency policies and programs for rental housing.
Dramatically reducing greenhouse gas emissions from houses and other residential buildings is vital for tackling climate change. Rental homes present an added challenge: They are less energy efficient than others, on average consuming 15% more energy per square foot than owner-occupied homes.

These inefficient homes also mean renters spend a lot on energy bills, with nearly one-third having high energy burdens, spending more than 6% of their income on energy bills. Yet for the more than one in three U.S. households that rent their homes, making energy-saving improvements may be difficult or even prohibited.

ACEEE’s Energy Equity for Renters initiative will help tackle the challenge of reducing energy waste in rental housing. Our goal: protect the climate, reduce energy costs, and preserve affordable neighborhoods.

We are engaging local governments across the country to support local leaders’ efforts to improve rental housing. We will provide technical assistance to cities and community-based organizations working to create and implement programs for rental efficiency upgrades. And we will track and benchmark policy developments across the country that support residential efficiency and affordability efforts and highlight best practices.

ACEEE Helping 10 Jurisdictions Lower Utility Bills and Preserve Affordable Housing  

Energy Equity for Renters is providing 10 local governments and community-based organizations with no-cost technical assistance to improve energy efficiency in rental homes while also preserving or expanding affordable housing.  

Energy Equity for Renters will work with these jurisdictions to create and implement programs for rental efficiency upgrades. The initiative also tracks policy developments across the country that support residential efficiency and affordability efforts. 

ACEEE will work with these 10 communities on programs to address home weatherization, renter energy burdens, residential building electrification, and other rental housing needs:  

  • Alachua County, Florida: As temperatures continue to rise, the heat impacts of climate change are intersecting with the affordable housing crisis in a way that is threatening the health and safety of the county's most marginalized residents: low-income renters. To address this issue, Alachua County provides up to $15,000 in energy efficiency improvements to tenants making 50% or less of area median income while committing landlords to maintaining housing affordability. While this initiative has the potential to make renters cooler, safer, and more comfortable at a reduced cost, its adoption isn't as widespread as it could be. ACEEE technical assistance will help Alachua County and its community partners, Rebuilding Together North Central Florida and the Community Weatherization Coalition, in troubleshooting the current energy efficiency program to reach more residents quickly.  
  • Burlington, Vermont: The City of Burlington has a rental weatherization ordinance requiring multi-unit dwellings over a certain energy use threshold to weatherize their buildings to reduce thermal energy use, reducing carbon emissions and keeping tenants warm in winter and cool in summer.  As the city works to implement the ordinance, it will partner with community-based organizations to determine how to best share and communicate about the law with tenants, property owners, and others.   
  • Denver, Colorado: Working with ACEEE, the Climate Action, Sustainability, and Resilience Agency (CASR) of the City and County of Denver seeks to leverage its work with community-based organizations in public outreach and engagement. The agency aims to address Denver’s foremost climate vulnerabilities: extreme heat and water scarcity. It is prioritizing building a resilient community for all while moving toward a carbon pollution-free environment.  
  • King County, Washington: King County has prioritized reducing utility burdens and expanding renewable energy and energy efficiency deployment in frontline communities as part of its Strategic Climate Action Plan. ACEEE technical assistance will support a county-led project to analyze the utility burden on renters in frontline communities to help develop policy recommendations that can improve utility bill affordability while meeting the county’s climate goals.  
  • New Bedford, Massachusetts: The City of New Bedford will be working with landlords and CBOs advocating for energy-burdened renters to identify opportunities to incentivize energy efficiency upgrades in multifamily rental properties. ACEEE will support this effort by facilitating discussion and identifying lessons learned and best policy practices in other communities across the country.  
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: The Office of Sustainability at the City of Philadelphia is interested in understanding how to address energy burdens for tenants in small rental dwellings. The Office will work with ACEEE and local community-based organizations to understand how low-cost energy disclosure mechanisms can be used to address this challenge.  
  • Rochester, New York: The City of Rochester aims to continue its joint city-community efforts to connect residents with energy saving opportunities to decrease the carbon footprint of homes and decrease energy burdens for residents. The city will work with ACEEE and community partners such as Rochester Energy Efficiency and Weatherization (RENEW) to identify ways to expand these efforts to better reach traditionally disenfranchised populations such as renters, as well as analyze data and program processes to be more strategic about the implementation of energy efficiency programs.  
  • San José, California: The City of San José is planning to launch an incentive program and a zero-interest loan program to support residential building electrification. The city and its partner community-based organizations are eager to serve these programs to the 45% of San José residents who are renters. ACEEE technical support will enable the team to solicit feedback from the community to understand barriers to energy upgrades and recommend program design and complimentary policies to support renters.  
  • Skokie, Illinois: The Village of Skokie and local community groups wish to optimize building energy efficiency in multi-family buildings. They will engage with residential property owners, developers, and renters to assess the community's housing needs to determine how housing providers for low- and moderate-income households can implement energy efficiency and decarbonization measures equitably. ACEEE technical assistance will support the Village of Skokie and its community partners to review case studies and best practices to design incentive programs for building owners and developers.  
  • St. Petersburg, Florida: Working with ACEEE, the City of St. Petersburg and its community partners aim to identify and incorporate potential energy efficiency opportunities in current rehabilitation programs for rental housing. ACEEE will collaborate with the City of St. Petersburg to evaluate existing city programs to align rental housing and energy efficiency programs, including: the Rebates for Residential Rehabilitation (RRR) program, the utility assistance program, Integrated Sustainability Action Plan (ISAP), the city’s energy roadmap, and municipal code requirements.    

Last year, Energy Equity for Renters announced its first round of technical assistance to five jurisdictions and CBOs in: the San Francisco Bay Area; Cambridge, Massachusetts; Duluth, Minnesota; Portland, Oregon; and Tacoma, Washington.  

ACEEE’s Energy Equity for Renters initiative is generously supported by the Kresge Foundation and The JPB Foundation.


Our Recent Work

energy efficiency equity for rentals
  • Multifamily energy savings project. Our work to support comprehensive building upgrade programs serving renters living in market-rate and affordable multifamily housing.

  • energy efficiency for renters
  • Energy burden research. In addition to renters, we found that low-income, Black, Hispanic, and Native American households all face dramatically higher energy burdens—spending a greater portion of their income on energy bills—than the average household.

  • Low-income energy efficiency programs. ACEEE’s resources on best practices to expand energy efficiency investments for households with low incomes.

Photos courtesy: Resource Media
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