The planned Seattle retrofits will lower utility costs for owners of affordable multi-family buildings
Emerald Cities Seattle (EC Seattle) launched the first projects under its RENEW multi-family housing program that will use efficiency retrofits to unlock energy and water savings for owners of affordable housing.
RENEW bridges the divide between nonprofit housing providers and contractors by taking on the critical project development role. EC Seattle's comprehensive project assistance includes benchmarking of energy and water use, project management, technical assistance, pre-development financial support and facilitation of project financing utilizing multiple community financial resources.
The planned Seattle retrofits will lower utility costs for owners of affordable multi-family buildings, making such housing more economically viable while stimulating the clean-energy economy, explained EC Seattle Director Steve Gelb. At the same time, he added, the program will improve the environment by reducing energy use and resulting emissions and create quality jobs and career paths for local workers, specifically residents of under-served communities being left behind in the current Seattle "boom."
Seattle is one of 10 sites where the national Emerald Cities Collaborative (ECC) operates local programs to fulfill its three-part mission encompassing environmental protection, economic development, and equity for low-income communities and communities of color.
"The launch of the RENEW Program is the culmination of years of collaborative work that realizes our mission of improving our environment with a lens on equity," Gelb said. "It is critical at this time in Seattle, where we seek to increase the availability of affordable housing, that we have programs like RENEW that help reduce the operating costs of affordable housing through energy and water efficiency. The RENEW Program's portfolio approach and scalable model promise to reach deep into the current affordable building stock in the Puget Sound Region."
The first buildings to receive efficiency upgrades under RENEW Seattle are the St. Charles Hotel and the David Colwell Building owned by the nonprofit Plymouth Housing Group. They will be outfitted with LED lighting, lighting sensors, hot water heating controls, optimization of ventilation and low-flow plumbing fixtures. Additional buildings in the RENEW pipeline include five owned by Bellwether Housing.
The RENEW program model overcomes financial barriers such as the need for pre-development funds, which were secured through financing from Impact Capital; the risk of assessment costs, which EC Seattle undertook with support from the Sustainable Path Foundation; and project funding itself. The latter will be handled as an unsecured capital lease by the Washington State Housing Finance Commission. The building owners will repay the financing from the energy and water savings that will be reflected on their Seattle City Light bills.
The RENEW launch event will include the presentation of EC Seattle's Collaborator of the Year award to the City of Seattle – a key public partner that made RENEW possible – for supporting programs that reflect the community's values; investing in new ideas and thinking; contributing to synergistic solutions; and working collaboratively with government, business, labor and the community.
Also speaking at the launch event will be Michael Mann of Cyan Strategies, who chairs the EC Seattle Local Council, an advisory body representing local labor unions, government, businesses and community groups; Marty Kooistra, executive director of the Housing Development Consortium; Alistair Jackson, principal with O'Brien and Co.; and Betsy Hunter, deputy director, Plymouth Housing Group.