It’s difficult to ignore the seismic shift in policies coming out of Washington—not the least of which are planned cuts in federal support for low-income populations and for the environment.
How will the administration’s policy shifts and program cuts affect these two critical social issues, and what does it mean to our environment and low-income families going forward?
Defunding federal support for low-income families may have tragic consequences
Many signs point to a housing crisis for low-income families, which inevitability will require us to find new support for low-income communities:
- Our low-income population has increased at an alarming 41 percent over the past decade according to a S. Department of Housing and Urban Development study.
- A 2015 report stated that more than 8.3 million low-income families that qualified for federal assistance did not receive support due to budget constraints.
- A 2017 report to Congress focused on our nation’s lack of affordable housing.
Yet, despite these troubling signs, President Trump is planning to drastically cut funding to HUD, which administers federal housing subsidies.
Trump’s war against the war to reverse climate change
In less than a year, the current administration has firmly put its stamp on our nation’s environmental policy by pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord, deregulating environmental safeguards and appointing climate change deniers to key posts. To see every significant anti-environmental decision made since Donald Trump took office, check out National Geographic’s A Running List of How Trump Is Changing the Environment
Here are 10 key events among those currently listed by National Geographic:
- Trump Era Poised to Scrap Clean Power Plan • October 9, 2017
- Trump Revokes Flood Standards Accounting for Sea-Level Rise • August 15, 2017
- Report: EPA Enforcement Lags Under Trump • August 10, 2017
- S. Pulls Out of Paris Climate Agreement • June 8, 2017
- Trump Budget Proposes Steep Cuts for the Environment • May 23, 2017
- EPA Scrubs Climate Change Website • April 28, 2017
- Order Aims to Expand Offshore Drilling • April 28, 2017
- Keystone XL Pipeline Approved • March 24, 2017
- EPA Chief Downplays Climate • March 9, 2017
- Water Protection May Dry Up • February 28, 2017
Clearly, environmental policy on the federal level has seen a dramatic change, which must somehow be mitigated by state, local and private sector initiatives.
In the face of vanishing federal support, States lead environmental effort
Fortunately, when it comes to energy efficiency and water conservation, the states are the real drivers of sustainability and the source for most meaningful financial subsidies. Progressive states like California, New York, as well as a number of states in New England, Mid-Atlantic and Upper Midwest have for the most part maintained or increased their announced support of sustainability.
The answer is different for renewable strategies where historically, renewable improvements were made possible by Federal tax credits. Now, with the proposed tax plan reducing the maximum corporate tax rate from 35% to 20%, these tax credits may no longer be worth the trouble. The hope is that, because improving productivity of solar panels and other renewable systems will make renewable systems financially feasible without the credits.
The question becomes how can low-income housing owners afford to implement energy efficiency, water conservation and energy generation projects without federal support—especially at a time when lowering utility bills and carbon emissions are increasingly important to low-income families and to the environment?
One company offers hope for keeping affordable housing affordable and the planet livable
Affordable Community Energy Services (ACE) is one answer to the challenge because it clearly stands at the intersection of low-income housing and the environment. Through its innovative business model, ACE is one of a few social enterprises in the country that makes it possible for low-income housing owners to afford water conservation, energy efficiency and renewable energy generation projects for their properties.
“ACE’s projects help low-income housing owners manage their utility cost, which is particularly important given that low-income residents are already paying higher utility rates, in part because of the community’s aging infrastructure,” explains Jeff Greenberger, ACE’s president. “In addition to helping keep low-income housing financially viable, our work also helps reduce each building’s carbon footprint, which is a key strategy for fighting climate change,” Greenberger adds.
Insuring long-range impact through socially minded investors
ACE and its partners are currently working with Mercy Housing in California, the nation’s largest owner of multi-family low-income housing to upgrade its portfolio.
According to Caitlin Rood, Mercy Housing’s Direct for Environmental Sustainability, “Combining the LIWP incentives with the ACE pay-from-savings offering, we were able to achieve deep levels of retrofit at these properties in a way we could not have otherwise done. We hope to replicate this approach with more California incentive programs at other properties in our portfolio.”
Yet, even with a proven business model, ACE’s challenge is daunting. As a relative startup, it must convince capital sources to lend the money necessary to complete the planned improvements for its clients.
One of the keys to meeting this challenge is building ACE’s balance sheet as a comfort to potential project lenders. To do so, ACE is seeking new investors through a crowdfunding campaign. Due to a relatively new SEC ruling, this investor acquisition strategy only recently became available to a social enterprise, for-profit operating company that offers a service for social good rather than a sexy product. ACE has found a number of social impact investors and has passed initial funding goals, but needs more investors in order to expand its work further.
ACE is working diligently with its current clients, partners and investors to find support whenever and wherever it can in order to help fill the growing environmental and low-income housing gaps left by federal policy changes and budget cuts. Together, they recognize that new solutions like those that ACE offer are more urgent than ever.
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. ACE is currently working with Mercy Housing in California, the largest affordable housing nonprofit in the country. 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.