California Regulators Dedicate $80 Million to Empower Affordable Housing Owners to Play a Key Role in Meeting the State’s Energy Efficiency Goals

Policy Director Stephanie Wang

On November 10, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) issued a decision that dedicates $80 million to empower government and non-profit owners of rent-restricted affordable housing to participate in Energy Savings Assistance (ESA) programs for low-income households. The Green Rental home Energy Efficiency Network (GREEN) and Energy Efficiency for All (EEFA) Coalition* secured these funds and significant ESA program improvements by highlighting the program barriers that caused the four large investor-owned utilities to underspend their program budgets for 2009-2015 by $400 million, and by presenting opportunities to overcome these barriers.

The CPUC’s decision updates the ESA program to support whole-building energy efficiency planning and improvements for affordable housing. The original ESA program design only provided in-unit energy efficiency measures and weatherization services, and did not support coordination with other programs. Here are highlights of the funding aspects of the decision that owners of affordable rental properties should pay attention to:

  • Whole-Building Multifamily. The CPUC decision dedicates $80 million of unspent ESA funds to a new Multifamily whole-building energy efficiency retrofit program for rent-restricted multifamily housing. Services will include full funding and deployment of common area measures, including high efficiency central air conditioning, water heaters and lighting, consistent with audit recommendations. In order to qualify, at least 65% of the tenants must be low-income eligible for ESA services. Costs for in-unit measures provided by the traditional ESA Program will not be taken from this new program fund.
  • Low-Income Weatherization Program Multifamily. In order to maximize the benefits from Department of Community Services and Development’s (CSD) Low-Income Weatherization Program (LIWP) dollars for energy efficiency upgrades, the CPUC directs the utilities to fully fund measures and installation costs for all approved measures currently provided by the ESA program, preserving CSD’s funding to pay for improvements to central systems and common areas not typically paid for by the ESA program.

The CPUC decision also addresses several key barriers to participation for multifamily affordable rental housing owners, including:

  • Streamlining the income verification process by allowing certification through an owner affidavit.
  • Allowing all properties to receive ESA services and incentives, regardless of whether they have received ESA services in the past.
  • Allowing properties to participate with fewer than three energy efficiency measures.
  • Directing utilities to revisit loan terms for On-Bill Financing and On-Bill Repayment, and provide technical assistance for On-Bill Financing projects.
  • Directing utilities to establish technical assistance programs for energy efficiency retrofits in the areas affected by the Aliso Canyon State of Emergency.
  • Establishing a Multifamily Working Group to ensure robust participation in implementing program improvements.

Following this landmark decision, there is still a lot more work to be done in California to empower affordable multifamily housing owners to play a key role in meeting the state’s goal of doubling energy efficiency by 2030. Rest assured that the California Housing Partnership will continue to work with our GREEN and EEFA partners to follow these ESA improvements through implementation and unlock new policy and program opportunities. Please contact me at if you have an interest in joining these efforts or finding out more.

*Overview of GREEN and EEFA

The California Housing Partnership established the Green Rental home Energy Efficiency Network (GREEN) in 2010 to work collaboratively with multifamily housing organizations and low-income households in California to increase access to energy efficiency and renewable energy resources and to ensure that publicly assisted properties serving the state’s lowest-income households receive an equitable distribution of these resources.

Energy Efficiency for All (EEFA) is a national partnership of the Energy Foundation, Elevate Energy, National Housing Trust, and Natural Resources Defense Council dedicated to linking the energy and housing sectors together in order to tap the benefits of energy efficiency for millions of low-income families. This national initiative is focused in twelve states, including California.

In California, GREEN and EEFA work together with multifamily property owners and managers and numerous partners, including National Consumer Law Center, Greenlining Institute, National Housing Law Project, Association for Energy Affordability, and Build It Green, among others, to expand energy efficiency program offerings, increase market demand for energy efficiency products and services, promote best practices to improve the energy performance of multifamily properties, and ensure that low-income households benefit from cleaner, healthier, and more affordable housing.