States’ Build Back Better Plans For Affordable Housing Hinge On Innovators

07 March 2022

The Biden White House’s Build Back Better moonshot shattered late last year. So, what’s to become of its zillion pieces, like the promise of upwards of $200 billion the massive social agenda had penciled in for a desperately-needed housing safety net?

As the question of whether a core slate of Federal social programs might ever get full Democratic Senator support, one of the BBB colossal fail’s cruelest impacts hits where it hurts most – housing affordability and access — where an unfolding crisis magnifies a slew of economic troubles, and where investment and commitment could turn multiplier-effect societal solutions.

A rendering of Dextall's pioneering prefabricated exterior wall panel system, which integrates ... [+] IMAGE COURTESY OF DEXTALL INC.
A rendering of Dextall’s pioneering prefabricated exterior wall panel system, which integrates … [+]

The multi-trillion-dollar grand bargain fell short, leaving an abyss of un- and under-protected households and people whose wherewithal is no match for spiraling home prices and rents and new and remodeled and renovated housing costs. However, as Capitol Hill dithers, and Uncle Sam’s coffers remain off-bounds for the near future, a public-private sector venture at the state level is working fast to open a new door to the future – accessible, safe, healthy, and environmentally sustainable buildings — on the affordable housing front.

An inventive alliance – adapted from Energiesprong [Dutch for Energy Jump], a non-profit program that has retrofitted 6,000 thousand of affordable housing units in the Netherlands, France, the UK, Germany, and Italy since 2013, and built just as many new ones – has gotten moving through a catalyst commitment of $30 million from the New York State Research and Development Authority. NYSERDA’s RetrofitNY aims to kick-start a cascade of private sector and community investments, with ultimate sights set on the state’s more than 6 million unit stock of aging, deteriorating, and energy-wasting buildings that together generate as much as 32% of the state’s direct greenhouse emissions — 43% of total emissions when counting emissions from the generation of electricity used in buildings.

And New York State — should the program pilot successfully — could be only the start of a desperately needed, upgrade of the nation’s sprawling, already-installed base of affordable apartment communities in need of refurbishment.
Central to the program’s success – super cost efficient, super high energy and resilient buildings – is innovative building technology, including high-performance, low-cost panelized exterior wall systems, low-cost roofing systems with integrated photovoltaics, integrated all-electric mechanical systems, and a turn-key project delivery model.

Scientific American contributor Willem Marx described Energiesprong’s version of a build-back-better approach this way, offering a sneak preview of New York State’s Retrofit New York program. >> Read the whole article

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