Investing in the nation’s building stock should be a critical part of a clean, equitable recovery. Building efficiency, paired with strong housing protections and affordable housing policies, will lower utility bills for families, small businesses and communities, cut climate-warming and health damaging pollution, and help ensure that everyone has access to adequate heating and cooling to get through worsening extreme weather events, all while supporting a growing workforce of more than two million people.
Specific Policy Proposals:
Provide emergency energy assistance funding: Congress should greatly increase funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which provides bill assistance for low-income utility customers in danger of having their electricity and gas services disconnected. Lawmakers should provide at least $7 billion in emergency funding and an additional permanent increase in annual funding for the program.
Increase funding for weatherization: The Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) funds weatherizing retrofits for low-income households across the country. WAP cuts climate-warming pollution, makes homes healthier due to reduced exposure to mold and toxic materials, builds resilience to extreme weather, and reduces energy burden. The program also supports energy efficiency jobs across the country. Congress should provide stimulus funding of about $7 billion and then long-term annual funding of $1-2 billion for WAP. Lawmakers should also make several critical updates to increase the effectiveness and equity of WAP.
Fund state and local governments to advance energy efficiency and clean energy: Congress should provide $3-7 billion per year for the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) program and update the program to make it more effective, including by ensuring that funds go toward electrification and improvements to non-municipal infrastructure, in addition to municipal energy efficiency projects. EECBG was a highly successful program that provided state and local government entities and tribes grants to fund projects that reduced climate-warming emissions, improved energy efficiency, and benefited local communities. An evaluation of EECBG found that $2.3 billion of public investment led to about 63,000 new job-years. Increased funding for EECBG will help energy efficiency workers keep or regain their jobs and put more people to work, while bringing energy and cost savings to people all over the country. Moreover, EECBG gives state and local governments the flexibility to invest in the most necessary infrastructure investments in their communities.
Expand renter protections and fund affordable housing programs to reduce displacement: Improvements to housing and associated infrastructure can exacerbate inequalities and displace people from their homes and neighborhoods. Congress must pair building efficiency with housing policy to minimize displacement and harm to vulnerable groups. Lawmakers should 1) increase funding for the Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) fund and the National Housing Trust Fund, with a carveout for public housing, 2) increase funding for Housing Choice Vouchers, the Public Housing Operating Fund, and other housing assistance programs, 3) expand funding for the LIHTC program, and 4) Increase funding for the Indian Housing Block Grant program and other programs that support affordable housing on Tribal lands.