Why should housing policymakers focus on reducing household energy costs?
The individual contribution of each of these components depends in large part on the trade-offs families make when seeking affordable housing. Households that move to outlying areas in order to save on housing costs may find that any savings are offset by increases in the cost of transportation, while families living in older affordable homes with poor insulation or inefficient appliances may be confronted by escalating utility costs. Well-coordinated policies can help to address each of these factors, reducing the combined costs of place and freeing up funds for food, health care, and other essentials.
Household Transportation Costs
A Transit for Livable Communities report states the average Twin Cities household spent 17 percent of its income on transportation. This is worrying enough but the report also showed that low income households spent substantially more. Households in major areas that have more extensive transit systems spent significantly less than the average. This is a lesson that should not be lost on policy makers.
Housing that is built at sufficient densities to support public transit gives residents the opportunity to choose from a range of transportation alternatives. These can include public transit that is less costly, and more energy-efficient, than a personal vehicle.
Importantly, land use policies that increase density around transit stops or in urban centers but do not ensure that some of those units are affordable to working families may succeed in improving livability only for higher-income families. Communities are using a range of policy tools to ensure a place in these desirable locations for low- and moderate-income households.
How can housing policies help to reduce families' energy and transportation costs?
For existing buildings, there are many opportunities for policy-makers and residents to implement energy efficiency solutions. Grants, low-interest loans, technical assistance, and many other tools are all available. Click here for more information on how residents can incorporate energy efficiency into existing and new housing.
What are the benefits to the community of housing that is energy-efficient and well located near public transit or job centers?
Related Case Studies
Minnesota Energy Challenge
The Minnesota Energy Challenge is a website-based program run by local nonprofit Center for Energy and Environment...