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Relay Network Targets Multifamily Housing Upgrades Nationwide

Affordable apartment buildings are home to more than 10 million American households, making them a backbone of U.S. housing stock. They also waste a lot of energy.

In fact, energy efficiency measures are far less likely to be found in multifamily buildings than any other type of housing, according to a 2011 report by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Several hurdles have stalled upgrades: building owners lack access to capital, utility-run efficiency programs fall short of demand, and state regulations often stand in the way.

To create solutions to these challenges, Elevate Energy and New Ecology, Inc. created the Relay Network, a national network of 10 organizations dedicated to jumpstarting energy efficiency and green building improvements in affordable multifamily buildings. The group endeavors to share best practices, help fledging organizations get off the ground, and develop standards that can be used to measure the benefits of retrofits for tenants and building owners.

“We’re trying to help re-create the awesome program we have in Chicago in other places,” said David Haeg, Elevate Energy’s Senior Manager for Special Projects. Elevate Energy runs one of the nation’s most established multifamily programs, with 626 completed building renovations upgrading over 26,000 units since 2008.

The network will help members tackle issues such as sharing new innovative technology, simplifying and leveraging government funding, and jointly pursuing contract proposals. Experienced players as well as start-up programs are involved, including three emerging programs Elevate Energy is supporting in New Orleans, Kansas City., Mo., and Michigan.

A significant portion of rent paid by low-income families goes to heating and other energy costs, especially in northern climates. Reducing those charges can help building owners keep their properties affordable as well as lower the property’s environmental impact. However, many landlords don’t have time to wade through the process of procuring an energy audit, prioritizing projects, and dealing with contractors for a payoff that may take years to realize, Haeg said. What they need is a one-stop shop to perform this work for them, which is what the network members aim to provide.

“I’ve been a part of several different networks, but what I find really valuable about the Relay Network is that it is focused on mission-oriented practitioners—the folks that are out there running efficiency programs—and how we can work together to improve our programs,” said Carl Nelson, Director of Program Development at Relay Network member Center for Energy and Environment in Minneapolis.

Elevate Energy hosted the second annual convening of the Relay Network on May 19th and 20th to strengthen our working relationships, find opportunities to collaborate and learn from each other, and discuss challenges and opportunities for 2016.

“We are spread throughout the country, so without someone to bring us together, we would not be able to learn and collaborate as much as we do now with the Relay Network,” Nelson said.

For more information, visit the network’s website.

Network Members:

Blue Hills Community Services, Kansas City, MO
Center for Energy and Environment, Minneapolis, MN
Michigan Energy Options, East Lansing, MI
New Ecology Inc., Boston, MA
MPower Oregon, Portland, OR
Green Coast Enterprises, New Orleans, LA
ACTION-Housing Inc., Pittsburgh, PA
• Vermont Energy Investment Corporation, Burlington, VT
Neighborhood Energy Connection, St. Paul, MN
Elevate Energy, Chicago, IL

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