CHICAGO, Oct. 30 – Bringing broad-based energy-efficiency, water conservation and renewable energy improvements to existing multifamily low-income housing is a daunting task. While state and utility incentives help in many cases, finding capital to pay the remaining costs has proven to be extremely difficult.
Finding a solution to this challenge has been multi-year journey for Jeff Greenberger, President of Affordable Community Energy Services (ACE), one of the few social enterprises working on this challenge. To do so, Greenberger is turning to a relatively new type of investor, through an equity crowdfunding campaign, to make it easier to obtain this capital, thereby multiplying his company’s impact.
(You can visit www.startengine.com/affordablecommunityenergyservices)
The rise of crowdfunding and the social impact investor
Greenberger notes that in recent years, there have been a growing number of investors who look to support enterprises that contribute social or environmental benefits, while also providing solid financial returns.
“This funding source is particularly critical to social innovators now that the federal government is rolling back and deemphasizing its environmental and social safety net programs,” warns Greenberger.
Fortunately, beyond the institutional investor, large numbers of individuals are now getting into the act. This shift is driven in no small part by a 2016 ruling that allows individuals, by means of any number of crowdfunding platforms, to support a company’s mission through investments as low as $250 or less.
“Because we offer turnkey energy and water retrofits and renewable projects to owners of low-income housing—simultaneously benefiting low-income communities and the planet—we operate in a social impact sweet spot for some of these would-be investors,” says Greenberger. “And our performance to date makes us hopeful that our investors will be rewarded for supporting us.”
Investors to help fuel expansion of ACE’s impact
Greenberger has earmarked the funds he receives from investors for growing ACE’s reach. Currently, ACE is working with Mercy Housing, the nation’s largest non-profit providing affordable housing. Mercy Housing is planning to work with ACE throughout its portfolio affecting more than 152,000 low-income people in 41 states. While Mercy Housing is a significant provider, there are more than 5 million units of HUD-Assisted and LIHTC-supported housing across the country.
The urgency of bringing sustainability strategies to low-income communities
Every day, low-income housing facility owners are tasked with making ends meet n the face of limited subsidies, rising costs and aging facilities. With these challenges, stabilizing rents is an ongoing battle.
Because utility prices for electricity, gas and water aren’t predictable, these costs are particularly difficult to manage. Add to that, the fact that aging facilities become even less energy and water efficient every year, and the challenge is exacerbated.
Finally, utility rates in low-income communities are often already higher than those in other communities due to the aging and neglected utility infrastructures that are often found in poorer neighborhoods.
With all these pressures in play, it’s natural for low-income housing owners to wish for a thoughtful plan of energy efficiency and water conservation retrofits as a cost-control strategy that is common in other real estate sectors.
ACE has cracked the code with a business model that provides feasibility and audit, financing, design, implementation and management of sustainability projects for low-income housing.
The challenge now, is to expand the impact ACE is already making.
ACE (Affordable Community Energy Services Company) is a mission-driven, for-profit social enterprise. ACE brings broad-based energy efficiency, water conservation and renewable energy improvements to the vastly under-served owners and residents of low-income housing. If you would like more information about this topic, please call Jeff Greenberger at 312-894-9523 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you’re interested in learning about becoming an investor, visit ACE’s crowdfunding page at www.startengine.com/affordablecommunityenergyservices.