This paper was first presented at the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy’s (ACEEE’s) 2016 Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Buildings. It was presented as part of the ‘Resilient, Sustainable Communities’ panel that examined how energy analysis at the community scale can contribute to better decisions about urban infrastructure and communities. The 2016 Summer Study was the 19th biennial ACEEE conference on Energy Efficiency in Buildings, bringing together a diverse group of professionals from around the world to discuss actions to reduce energy use and the climate impacts associated with buildings.
Across the US, there is a significant shortage of safe, healthy, energy efficient and affordable housing options for low-income residents. Many families face two mutually reinforcing problems: lack of affordable housing and lack of quality housing. Furthermore, many of the government programs intended to alleviate energy and housing burdens are siloed, fragmented and increasingly cash-strapped. Pairing weatherization and energy efficiency programs with healthy homes interventions can amplify non-energy benefits of these investments, effectively address social determinants of health, and generate greater returns on investments. The opportunity to increase non-energy benefits is particularly strong in multifamily housing facilities. At the individual level, occupants of multifamily homes experience improvements in health, comfort, and financial stability. Building owners see lower operation and maintenance costs, increased asset values, and decreased vacancy. Benefits also accrue at the community level in terms of both immediate improvements in environmental quality and the economic benefits related to job creation. Through a review of the literature from 2000–2015, this paper identifies and explores how home-based energy efficiency and health interventions can confer positive economic, health and environmental non-energy benefits at the individual and community level, thereby leading to significant savings while improving the quality of life and resiliency of low income households. The paper closes with policy recommendations that leverage the Clean Power Plan and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) to unlock the broader savings of non-energy benefits that arise from smart energy efficient investments.