New energy efficiency grants target low-income apartment buildings

Most energy efficiency programs are set up to provide services for single-family homes. That can create a gap in the programs that can be made available to the most vulnerable residents, who are often renters living in multifamily buildings.

To help bridge that gap, the City of Cincinnati and Duke Energy Ohio just announced a small grant program for owners of multifamily buildings with low-income tenants.

The grant is an incentive to double the impact of apartment owners’ energy efficiency upgrades. It will match the owners’ investment in upgrades up to $5,000.

The grant is focused on electricity efficiency, not natural gas. It’s designed to be used in buildings within the city of Cincinnati that have tenants at or below 200% of the federal poverty level, says the city’s Office of Environment and Sustainability.

The grant is funded by Duke Energy Ohio.

Applicants can be non-profit organizations or for-profit corporations. These can include community development corporations that preserve affordable housing through partnerships or land trusts, non-profit organizations that provide affordable housing or supportive housing, and properties with a participatory management system that maintain affordability through collective ownership or leasing.

The city’s Office of Environment and Sustainability says even basic energy efficiency upgrades for individual apartment units, such as high-efficiency light bulbs and air sealing improvements, can achieve up to 15% savings for residents.

More extensive building upgrades, such as HVAC improvements, can achieve up to 30-50% savings in buildings, it says.

Some upgrades that are eligible for the grant are insulation in walls, attics, and ceilings; air sealing improvements, such as caulking and weather stripping; and window replacements.

Appliance upgrades are also eligible, including washers and dryers, refrigerators and freezers, room air conditioners, and recycling old appliances to get them out of circulation.

Lighting upgrades, such as adding LED lighting, and HVAC upgrades are also eligible, the office says.

The grant is part of the suite of energy efficiency and energy equity programs being created by Office of Environment and Sustainability to achieve the Green Cincinnati Plan's goal of reducing household energy burden by 10%.

Interested property owners can attend a free grant review session from 1–2 p.m. on Nov. 12. Registration is available here.

A grant application can be downloaded here.

The deadline for submitting a completed application is Dec. 4 at 5 p.m.

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Read more articles by David Holthaus.

David Holthaus is an award-winning journalist and a Cincinnati native. When not writing or editing, he's likely to be bicycling, hiking, reading, or watching classic movies.