In an area of the country with the oldest housing stock, the highest 25% of emitting homes make up a disproportionate amount – well over 50% – of the residential on-state climate emissions. High emitting homes in Connecticut are not likely weatherized and are more often located in low-income communities and communities of color. High-emitting housing units are also more likely to pose serious health risks. Hazards such as asbestos, mold, lead, vermiculite, and knob and tube wiring, among others, are substantial barriers to retrofitting and energy efficiency upgrades.
At the tail end of Connecticut’s 2023 legislative session, Connecticut’s General Assembly passed H.B. No. 6942. Sections 90 and 91 of H.B. No. 6942 set out the guidance to establish a $125M “Housing Environmental Improvement Revolving Loan Fund” through the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) in collaboration with the Connecticut Department of Housing. Effective July 1, 2024, $75M will be available in a to provide low-interest financing for retrofits projects of multifamily residences in environmental justice communities that improve energy efficiency and building shell weatherization. Potential projects include but are not limited to, the installation of heat pumps, solar power generating systems, improved roofing, doors, windows, and any electric system or wiring upgrades necessary for such retrofit. The pilot program(s) will also prioritize upgrades that include the remediation of health and safety concerns such as mold, vermiculite, asbestos, etc. They will prioritize upgrades on non-owner-occupied units and units where residents or prospective residents are low-income. H.B. No. 6942 calls attention to engaging residents and owners to assist with participation and implementation. This is especially important as Tenaya Taylor, Executive Director at Nonprofit Accountability Group wrote, “…when people do take the time to find out about energy efficiency programs, complete the burdensome paperwork and get in touch with and convince their landlords to sign off on an application, too often the promised upgrades do not materialize.”
A report by DEEP on the program’s success is expected by October 2027 and will provide any recommendations for a permanent program and any subsequent legislation. The pilot program(s) will run until September 30, 2028.
The pilot program(s) outlined in H.B. No. 6942 align with Acadia Center’s Next Generation Energy Efficiency challenge priorities which aim to address: 1) sub-standard housing quality, 2) climate mitigation, 3) clean heating and whole-house electrification, and 4) sustaining investments in efficiency. Acadia Center will continue collaborating with coalition partners, the Lamont Administration, and community leaders to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while accelerating energy justice.
The Housing Environmental Improvement Loan Fund is an important step towards improving energy efficiency in overburdened and underserved communities. Climate advocates around Connecticut are calling for urgent, collaborative, and transparent action to “reestablish Connecticut as a true climate leader.” Through this process, community knowledge and expertise must be supported, centered, and valued as “the fight for housing justice and the fight for energy justice are the same fight.” Acadia Center will continue to play an active role in advancing energy efficiency efforts in Connecticut while enhancing outreach and engagement efforts to drive action on climate and energy justice.