Green Umbrella Leads Research Team Awarded $1.1M for Energy Study of Affordable Housing Units

STAR Grant Post

Green Umbrella is the lead investigator of a cohort of research institutions recently awarded a US Environmental Protection Agency grant to study how electrification and weatherization of homes affect energy consumption and indoor air quality for residents of affordable housing.

By Kelly Morton,

Published November 7, 2023

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Green Umbrella is the lead investigator of a cohort of research institutions recently awarded a US Environmental Protection Agency grant to study how electrification and weatherization of homes affect energy consumption and indoor air quality for residents of affordable housing. 

The project will include the installation of energy-saving technologies, such as insulation, heat pumps and electric stoves, in approximately 50 affordable housing units in Over-the-Rhine. These technologies are expected to improve energy reliability, affordability, comfort and air quality for Over-the-Rhine Community Housing residents and help researchers and policymakers outline efficient ways to facilitate future energy transitions for high-energy burden communities. 

“The general goal of the project is to quantify the benefits of electrification and weatherization efforts in multifamily homes, both with respect to energy security and air quality,” David Konisky of Indiana University, a partnering research institution, said. “There is a big gap in energy efficiency work in rental units, especially affordable units. This project can help us understand the practical benefits of making energy efficiency improvements and identify potential challenges that need to be addressed.”

In addition to implementing technology improvements, the project is designed to be co-led by community members and involve residents in data collection and education opportunities. Residents will be compensated to engage in pre- and post-study analysis over the three-year grant period and will provide direct feedback to researchers and City staff. 

“The challenge of providing affordable housing has always been about more than providing affordable rents,” reflected Mary Burke Rivers, Executive Director of Over the Rhine Community Housing. “Access to truly affordable housing includes low energy costs and healthy and safe homes, and this project will provide us the opportunity to make meaningful energy upgrades, as well as understand the value of those improvements to our community members. We are grateful for this opportunity and for community members who will engage in and benefit from the process.”

This project was developed in partnership with Over-the-Rhine Community Housing, the City of Cincinnati’s Office of Environment and Sustainability, Indiana University, Carnegie Mellon University, and the Kleinman Center for Energy Policy at the University of Pennsylvania. University partners will track and analyze data related to energy affordability and air quality benefits to influence future policy recommendations. 

“The high cost of energy overburdens one in four Cincinnati households making it even more difficult to make ends meet,” according to Oliver Kroner, Director of the City’s Office of Environment and Sustainability. “As we tackle this reality, the City is grateful to be able to scale this part of our efforts with this generous infusion of funding and partners. Special thanks to Duke Energy Ohio, the Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile Jr. Foundation, and The Greater Cincinnati Foundation for seed funding this effort. This work will deliver real benefits to the people of Cincinnati and will shape strategy and policy development in coming years.”

The grant program funding the research project is a part of the EPA’s focus on ensuring just transitions in the energy economy and investing in communities that have been historically marginalized or suffered environmental injustices. 

“This project is a huge opportunity for Cincinnati and residents of Over-the-Rhine to lead energy efficiency transitions to support energy-burdened communities,” said Ryan Mooney-Bullock, Executive Director of Green Umbrella, “We’re excited to work with this talented team of researchers and policymakers to make a real difference for people living in these 75 units, and even more excited for what this means for the future of critical energy transformations in our city and region.” 

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