|June, 2013 Volume 5, Issue 4|
Where Are the Weatherization 2013 Funds?
The Department of Energy is expected to announce the states’ allocation of weatherization funds for 2013 within the coming days. Our best guess is that the Department has found and re-allocated additional funding to WAP – perhaps as much as $60 million to add to the $65 million appropriated for the state program in the continuing resolution (before sequestration). However, it is not possible for any state to predict its allocation until a funding notice is issued because the Secretary of Energy was authorized by the Appropriations bill to establish a one-time formula. Any distribution will take into acount estimates of unobligated ARRA or prior-year weatherization monies still in each state. Problem: just because there is money in some subgrantee’s account in a state does not mean the network there is funded unless, the state equalizes the cuts on all agencies.
What is beyond the Weatherization 2013 and 2014 program framework?
Many are aware that the Department of Energy is considering changes in practice and policy that will make the program’s quality and consistency more predictable. They may include changes that the Department feels will contribute to smoother functioning of the much-reduced program. In meetings, such as the NASCSP semiannual events and other public venues, Weatherization leaders discussed options being considered, including assigning all final inspections to the state, requiring the new Home Performance Professonal certifications for the highest-skilled prgoram staff by FY 2014 , i.e. the inspector-auditor certification, and increasing safety testing of various kinds.
More than a year ago, a group of state and local Weatherizers and other experts met with department personnel for two days in Baltimore to craft a blueprint for a 2015 Weatherization program. The meeting, which resumed in conference calls, did not reach full consensus on most policy areas; the participants also decided not to engage in the exercise of making a blueprint for a Weatherization program much smaller than the 2008 national program. This left decisions about the design of the program at today’s funding level to the imaginations of the federal leadership.
Last week, DOE weatherization team leader Robert Adams issued an invitation to all grantees (states) to select a local weatherization professional and a representative of the association of Weatherizers or other broad coalition of weatherization network entities and to bring their delegation to a meeting in Denver in mid-July with all weatherization "’feds," We can expect that a framework of policy decisions, and perhaps new regulations, will be put before the attendees at the Denver meeting with opportunity to work on unresolved details. Contact your State manager now to get involved.
One framework element is ‘in’ our future for sure: multifamily housing.
The 2014 budget request includes $24 million for a fund that will support projects demonstrating innovative financing;
"the expansion of multifamily financing programs is the most practical means to dramatically increase the impact of Federal funds utilized in the weatherization of low-income households. In FY2014, the program will competitively select and manage 9-15 high-impact projects that would establish financing and loan models for the retrofit of low-income, multifamily buildings."
No detail has been provided regarding the criteria nor mechanisms related to the fund. Financing for landlords and other building owners has been of interest to the Department since 2009. Before work began that year on a new regulation, the team leadership was already discussing financing designs with network organizations. As in the SEP and EECBG programs, there was debate over the concept of creating local agency loan-loss reserves for credit enhancement to encourage building owners to make investments anticipating energy savings. The 2014 budget proposal seems to reflect this continuing interest in lending arrangements.
Want to Serve More Multifamily Buildings?
Opportunities to Weatherize multifamily buildings? Opportunities and private funds beckon, but access is difficult.
EOS convened a focus group of WAP subgrantees who are also owners and managers of assisted multifamily properties. They shared insights on the following issues to help their colleagues attract building owners and their money:
Whether services provided through WAP, even at no cost to the owner, are significant enough to spur their participation, much less some co-founding.
The focus group agreed that owners have competing demands on their resources and attention. Making energy efficiency a top investment depends on the owner’s sophistication about operations and long-term costs. Nonprofit owners are ‘low hanging fruit’, i.e more likely to consider a WAP project, because they are mission-driven and concerned for both the affordability of the unit and residents’ well-being.
What approaches are effective ‘marketing’ to building owners?
Participants recommended that Weatherizers market their services by exhibiting their expertise with large building systems. Owners want to see that you can offer competitive pricing, complete all work on schedule and speak their language in terms of multifamily building management science. Unfortunately, the WAP skill certifications are not yet a strong value proposition in the participants’ experience.
There was consensus that a full audit can offer a range of measures for owner consideration. Of course, WAP funds cover only the cost-effective measures, but the ‘menu’ can serve as a basis for negotiating co-funding. Many, if not most, owners request upgrades beyond the audit recommendations; the weatherization team should be prepared with strategies for sharing costs.
Leveraging and Coordinating Project Funding
Weatherization providers must have control of the delivery schedule and adequate cash reserves so cash flow does not threaten their fiscal health.
Special thanks to our owners and experienced weatherizers Jenny Larson (Minnesota/3 Rivers), Todd Mandel (Wisconsin/CouleeCap), Mike Thorsteinson (also 3 Rivers), John Wells (Mass./ABCD) and Kris White (Illinois/WCCCC) for generously sharing your time, experience and advice during the focus group.
See our recently published interview with HUD’s Wayne Waite about these same issues.
Multifamily Barrier Buster Webinars Coming Soon
Economic Opportunity Studies is hosting a series of webinars that focus on overcoming obstacles and avoiding pitfalls associated with mutlifamily weatherization. To get us started, we we are requesting your input so we may better tailor the webinars to the needs of weatherizers. Click here to both select a topic and sign up to be notified of future webinars.
The Newsletter of Economic Opportunity Studies’ Weatherization PLUS Leveraging Partnership Project brings timely information about developments that expand the Weatherization Assistance Program to help your organization take advantage of emerging opportunities. Visit the Weatherization PLUS portal for more information.
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