Giving Compass' Take:
- Brentin Mock discusses how government housing policies are causing residents of minority neighborhoods to pay more of their income towards energy bills.
- How can the current system be adapted to promote energy-efficient building updates and resident conservation?
- Read about solar power helping affordable housing keep costs down.
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It is well-established that the lower a family’s income, the more that family will pay for lighting and heating the house, running appliances, and keeping the wi-fi on. Such outcomes would suggest that this is a class problem or a function of rational markets. But according to a new study, all low-income households are not equally yoked: Residents of poorer, predominately white neighborhoods are less energy-cost burdened than people in predominately minority neighborhoods of similar economic status. Race matters.
Residents of minority neighborhoods who make less than 50 percent of area median income (AMI) are 27 percent more energy-cost burdened than residents from the same wage bracket who live in white neighborhoods. This is one of the findings from the study, “Energy Cost Burdens for Low-Income and Minority Households,” recently published in the Journal of the American Planning Association and conducted by New York University urban planning researchers Constantine E. Kontokosta and Bartosz Bonczak, and University of Pennsylvania urban planning professor Vincent J. Reina.
While white households consume more energy overall, black and Latino households have higher EUI, usually as a result of segregation where minority families dwell in neighborhoods with older housing stocks and smaller units.
These results are not surprising given how the housing subsidy arrangements work. For public housing and Section 8, the federal government mostly funds the owners of the buildings—local housing authorities and landlords, respectively—through rent subsidies, which includes utility allowances to help cover electric bill costs. There is no real incentive for these building owners to invest in energy efficiency upgrades because the federal subsidies will at some point adjust to cover whatever increases occur in tenants’ electricity costs.
Read the full article about why minority neighborhoods pay higher energy bills by Brentin Mock at City Lab.