Community, Ownership, and the Road to Energy Justice
by Lucy Marinelli, Neighborhood Housing Services
On Sept. 22, 2022, Kathy Fay, Neighborhood Housing Services (NHS) of New Haven’s Director of Community Sustainability, had the honor of presenting to the Yale School of Environment’s “Green Building: Issues and Perspectives” class.
Kathy took students down the road to energy justice by beginning with the discussion of redlining. This racially discriminatory act denied Black people mortgage loans and various financial services required to purchase a home. Although redlining was banned 50+ years ago, the systemic impact of redlining is still very evident, even in New Haven. A historically redlined area today manifests as a community with people of color living in financial instability as renters, not homeowners.
Kathy stated, “Being able to keep property in the family becomes difficult when you’re struggling with energy bills and leaky, old buildings.” This is a common plight in formerly redlined communities and creates a snowball effect: people are living in an area where past generations did not have the ability to finance mortgages. This means that when houses were not passed down to future generations, poverty is still rampant today, thus, generational wealth was never achieved.
NHS works to make change a reality by transforming these old houses into safe, energy-efficient, affordable homes. The work is done by I Heart My Home CT, an NHS program. Clients get counseled in ways to have home-energy conversations with landlords, how to identify trusted services (for example, barrier remediation programs to remove mold or asbestos), and the advantages of getting home energy audits.
Kathy hopes to see the intersection of energy efficiency and equity be more prevalent. One way to accomplish this is through a mandated landlord energy-efficiency requirement. She left the students with a call to action: “Reach out to your local representatives.”
The CT General Assembly proposed Governor’s Bill No. 5041, An Act Concerning Home Energy Affordability for Home Renters. The bill essentially holds landlords accountable regarding transparency with “home energy labels.” Tenant right-to-know is important. If people use their voice to encourage their local representatives to vote in favor of this bill next session, they will have the power to change the trajectory of energy justice in Connecticut.
For more info: https://nhsofnewhaven.org/
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