A 2012 Arizona University study found that energy efficiency is linked to housing type, with the worst offender being multifamily rentals. The least efficient of these rental units tend to house the poorest tenants, who already pay a large share of their income for housing and utilities and are least-equipped to shoulder needless energy costs. This pattern holds both nationwide and in every region of the country, but it is particularly serious when compounded by New York City’s worsening affordability crisis. The following charts illustrate market changes within the last decade:
According to Mayor de Blasio’s affordable housing plan:
- Over half of all rental households are rent-burdened [spending more than 30% of their income on rent]. This share of rent-burdened households has increased by over 11 percentage points since 2000.
- About a third of all rental households are severely rent-burdened [spending more than 50% of their income on rent]
- The shelter population has increased to an all-time high of over 50,000 — including 22,000 children.
Energy-inefficient multifamily rentals make up a significant portion of the affordable housing supply nationwide. A 1998 study found that 80% of all housing funded by the Low Income Housing Tax Credit program is found in multifamily structures.
But at the same time, a 2010 ConEd report testifies that large multifamily properties present unique opportunities for virtually all end uses, with the most promising prospects for lighting and central cooling / heating systems. Multiple sources confirm that higher savings at lower cost are achieved in fuel-heated (as opposed to electrically-heated) buildings. Since the majority of utility costs for a typical New York City affordable multifamily building are generated by fuel consumption, this indicates significant opportunity for lowered costs for families in need.
If multifamily rentals were brought up to par with other types of housing in terms of energy performance, the savings could range from $376 – $611 a year. Examples of effective measures include implementing cogeneration, switching fuel type from oil to gas, and undertaking retrofits that allow steam boilers to be offline during the summer. Switching from dirty oil to gas also reduces soot emissions by 96%, sulfate emissions by over 99%, nitrate emissions by 75%, and carbon emissions by 30%.
Minimizing unnecessary consumption also minimizes unnecessary cost and pollution, preserving the affordability of the City’s housing stock and the health of its residents.