Green Neighborhoods Act Would Push for More Residential Energy Efficiency
In August, Colorado Congressman Ed Perlmutter introduced H.R 8021, the Green Neighborhoods Act of 2020 to encourage greater energy efficiency and sustainability in the nation’s housing supply while creating new jobs in a greener economy. “A 21st-century energy policy requires both producing cleaner energy from renewable sources and using the energy we do consume more efficiently,” Perlmutter wrote in a recent article for The Hill.
“According to the Energy Information Administration,” the congressman says, “residential buildings account for 21 percent of our nation’s total energy expenditures. Only the transportation and industrial sectors consume more energy than what we use to heat and cool our homes, run our appliances, and keep the lights on.”
Whether one believes that congressional Democrats tend to be too aggressive with green initiatives or that Republicans tend to be too resistant, it is undeniable that these policies are far more feasible now than in the past, largely due to improvements in technology and the falling cost of clean and renewable energy. This is increasingly leading to more bipartisan support in the area of green initiatives.
Spelling Out the Benefits
According to Perlmutter, his legislation would create incentives for new energy-efficient housing and retrofits, incorporate energy efficiency in mortgage underwriting, improve utility benchmarking, help develop a skilled workforce for green jobs, and more. H.R 8021 “would require the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to implement energy efficiency standards and incentives for new and existing housing. Specifically, new single-family or multifamily residences, existing single-family or multifamily structures, and nonresidential structures would be eligible for two levels of incentives based on their ability to meet basic or enhanced energy efficiency standards.”
By using incentives rather than mandates, Perlmutter says that they will make utilities in HUD-assisted housing more affordable without driving up the cost of rent for families. The legislation also encompasses the SAVE Act which is said to have broad bipartisan support. The SAVE Act will ensure that energy cost savings from efficient homes are included in the underwriting process for government-backed mortgages.
Tech Developments Should Benefit Homeowners
Part of the motivation for the Green Neighborhoods Act, Perlmutter says, lies in the fact that the cost of utilities has risen significantly over the last few decades, so factoring in the energy costs and energy-efficient improvements into the underwriting process will improve the buying power of consumers of energy-efficient homes. Perlmutter says that it will also make the mortgage market more secure by providing borrowers with a broader picture of their expected costs of homeownership.
“The lack of utility and energy efficiency data is currently a blind spot in the underwriting process,” he says.
Legislation like the Green Neighborhoods Act could, in theory, also incentivize more construction in green and Smart homes, which tend to be more energy-efficient by design. It could also incentivize owners of existing homes to make upgrades in the efficiency of their homes, as this will more make their homes attractive in the real estate market should they decide to sell.
Support Through Green Jobs
To ensure that there is a skilled workforce of green jobs in communities across the country, the Green Neighborhoods Act would also establish a workforce development grant program to train employees through apprenticeship programs in energy-efficient retrofits, construction, deconstruction, building maintenance and management, and manufacturing of sustainable processes and materials.
“Recipients of these grants would be required to make employment opportunities publicly available and to advertise openings to dislocated workers,” Perlmutter says. “As our communities recover from the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, we can get America back to work by investing in energy independence and a sustainable future.”