The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed dramatic health inequities that highlight the underlying conditions that threaten the health and well-being of communities of color and low-income communities. The energy inefficiency of housing in Virginia is one of these conditions that must be addressed. Communities of color and low-income homeowners and renters pay more for utilities per square foot and as a percentage of their income than the average homeowner. In addition, these energy inefficient homes unnecessarily contribute to greenhouse gas pollution, further exacerbating the climate crisis.
The energy inefficiency of housing in Virginia is a social justice issue. Low-income homeowners and renters, including African American, Latinx, and other front-line households, pay more for utilities per square foot than does the average homeowner. Energy inefficient housing also unnecessarily contributes to greenhouse gas pollution.
In Northern Virginia, 14% of households have severe housing problems, including unaffordable housing and high energy burdens. Families who face higher energy burdens experience many negative long-term effects on their health and well-being. These families are at greater risk for respiratory diseases and increased stress, and they can experience increased economic hardship and difficulty in moving out of poverty.
Energy efficiency programs targeted toward communities of color, low-income households, and multi-unit dwellings can address a variety of social and economic factors that affect health. These programs can reduce exposure to indoor and outdoor air pollution, moisture and mold, and infiltration by rats, cockroaches, and other pests. They also protect occupants from extreme temperatures.
These programs can also improve the financial security of families by reducing overall utility bills. They reduce energy burdens – the share of income spent on utility bills – and create jobs in the communities they serve. After energy efficiency repairs, low income renters in multi-unit dwellings report they are more comfortable in their units, can pay utility bills with greater ease, and are more likely to renew their leases.
An estimated $50-75 million toward low-income energy efficiency will be disbursed through the new Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) cap and trade program in Virginia. Panelists at the Virginia Climate Crisis Forum will explore how this program can ensure the lowest-income populations benefit from long-term cost savings, and how this moves us toward a sustainable, net zero Virginia.
Join the discussion!
Fifth Annual Virginia Climate Crisis Forum: Reducing the Energy Burden in Post-Pandemic Virginia
Tuesday, September 22, 2020
For registration and more information, go to bit.ly/2020vaclimateforum
Hosted by Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions (FACS)
U.S. Senator Mark Warner (VA) will have a one-on-one conversation about the climate crisis with moderator Shyamali Hauth, FACS Vice Chair.
(Daniel Gade, candidate for U.S. Senate, has been invited to speak.)
The 2020 Virginia Climate Crisis Forum is open to the public and free of charge. Register at bit.ly/2020vaclimateforum.
Representing more than 70 congregations in the Northern Virginia area, FACS advocates for moral climate policies in Northern Virginia counties and in the Commonwealth. We empower and unite neighbors of all faiths to develop local solutions to the climate crisis. FACS is a 501(c)(3) non-partisan organization.