Washington, D.C.’s application of PACE financing to an affordable housing project is saving the property money as it promotes climate and energy equity.

The Challenge

Affordable housing properties and non-profits often have major deferred maintenance needs and struggle with the burden of high utility bills. Additionally, the upfront cost of efficiency improvements can put these technologies out of reach for many. By applying PACE financing to an affordable housing project, Washington, D.C. is bringing sustainability measures to an underserved market and proving that green retrofits and housing affordability can be mutually reinforcing.

The Solution

Washington, D.C. is using the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing tool, along with public housing capital funds and private investment, to support the $16.8 million rehabilitation of the Phyllis Wheatley YWCA, which hosts 82 units of affordable housing for homeless women in transition in a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood. PACE provided 100% of the upfront capital for the project, which includes high-efficiency HVAC equipment and controls, lighting, domestic water heating, and plumbing systems, as well as a 32.7 kW solar PV system, which together will reduce energy consumption by 25%. While PACE financing is available in most of the USA, this project marks the first time it has been approved for a Department of Housing and Urban Development-assisted mixed finance public housing property. By making it work in tandem with affordable housing subsidies, the novel mechanism enables rents to remain low enough so the property can remain as public affordable housing for at least 40 years, while at the same time it decreases its ecological footprint.

Environmental Benefits – This project will reduce the property’s energy use by 24% and its water use by 47%.

Social Benefits – The project is designed to ensure that current residents of Phyllis Wheatley YWCA, a non-discriminatory residence for women in precarious situations, can remain in their homes and not be displaced.

Economic Benefits – The Wheatley YWCA owners are expected to save about $5,000 in utility and operations expenses each year, which reduces rents for women offered shelter in the facility.

Health Benefits – This project was supported by the Department of Behavioral Health, which provides ongoing supportive services, and mental health and substance abuse counseling to women in need.

About Cities100

In its second year, Cities100 – presented by C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group (C40), Sustainia and Realdania – showcases leading solutions to urban climate challenges in ten sectors, ranging from solid waste management to transportation. For the first time, this year’s publication features solutions that address the nexus of climate change and social equity.

Available online and in print, Cities100 provides stakeholders an accessible format to explore achievable solutions for climate action in cities, and will be a useful tool for relevant groups ranging from impact investors and development organizations, to mayors and city governments. You can access the full Cities100 2016 publication online here and read more about how may­ors will de­liver the aims of the Paris Agree­ment in a fore­ward by Anne Hidalgo, C40 Chair and Mayor of Paris, here.

  • Economic
  • Environmental
  • Health
  • Social
Key Impact
114 metric tons of CO2 reduced annually by the retrofit of the Wheatley YWCA
Share article

More Case Studies