October 7, 2016

The Future of Affordable Housing is Measured and Managed, Lean and Green

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Photo: CC Image courtesy image of Michelle Hurwitz.

Imagine not knowing how many miles per gallon your car can drive.  Now imagine owning or managing a fleet of 2.5 million cars.

HUD’s project-based affordable housing stock is comprised of 2.5 million housing units nationwide and relies on $4.0 billion per year in utility subsidies.  But like most owners and managers of large real estate portfolios, HUD and its housing provider partners have perennially struggled to answer basic questions about the energy and water performance of the affordable housing stock, as well as the effectiveness of interventions made to improve it.  We’re about to change that.

On Tuesday, October 4, 2016, at GreenBuild International, Director Shaun Donovan of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) touted HUD’s proposed new utility benchmarking policies and the support HUD is building up to help housing providers adopt this best practice smoothly and successfully over the next few years.

Utility benchmarking is a fundamental part of asset management that involves tracking, analyzing, and reporting the utility consumption and costs associated with properties.  Building owners, funding providers, and governing bodies use the information gained from utility benchmarking to make data-driven decisions about how to invest their limited resources.  In doing so, they are better able to achieve their goals of reducing operating costs, improving building performance, and mitigating climate change.

As a result of its proposed policies, 90% of HUD’s project-based assisted and public housing stock – about 2.25 million housing units – will be measured and managed through utility benchmarking on an on-going basis.  Covered properties will be phased in over the course of 3 years, with target adoption levels being reached by December 31, 2019.

Meanwhile, housing providers will find a robust and growing collection of resources and tools on HUD’s utility benchmarking website, as well as forthcoming opportunities to apply for direct technical assistance from HUD’s consulting partners.  This fall, we’ll announce a special partnership with the Environmental Defense Fund, which will match Climate Corps Fellows with select housing providers across the country to build capacity in utility benchmarking and energy/water management.

Over the coming months and years, HUD will be working with its partners at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to integrate and expand a variety of public software applications to offer housing providers the ability to automate and analyze their utility cost and consumption data in unprecedented ways – including more easily calculating their HUD utility subsidies and developing their utility allowance schedules.

HUD’s utility benchmarking initiative builds on over a decade of research and discussion with housing providers and industry experts.  It will be featured as part of the agency’s Open Government Plan, as an effort exemplifying the values of government transparency, public participation, and interagency collaboration.  To that end, we’re seeking your feedback on HUD’s proposed new utility benchmarking policies today.  Please read our press release and comment on our Federal Register Notices FR-5916-N-17 and FR-5913-N-27.

Harriet Tregoning is the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Community Planning and Development.

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