Solar energy panel

August 7, 2023

Washington, DC – Sierra Club members and supporters submitted more than 6,000 comments urging the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to finalize and implement a policy determination to update building energy codes for renters in low-income housing, which could save residents over 35% in energy costs.

HUD’s new building energy codes will improve home quality, reduce monthly costs, lessen vulnerability to fuel price spikes, support the health and comfort of residents, and ensure long-term reductions in carbon emissions. The update will also ensure that a population often out of reach of these home upgrades – renters and low-income residents – can access new technology and safety improvements.

HUD and the U.S. Department of Agriculture were directed by The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 to adopt periodic revisions to building codes to improve energy efficiency. Yet, since that bill was codified, HUD and USDA have made few meaningful changes. Now, the agencies have determined that “these codes are cost effective in that the incremental cost of the additional efficiency measures pays for themselves with energy cost savings on a life-cycle basis.”

While building codes are set at the state and local levels, the federal government can set minimum standards for new and renovated buildings federally supported through mortgages or grants. Recently, the General Services Administration, one of the largest landlords in the country, announced that it is using Inflation Reduction Act funding to achieve net-zero emissions on twenty-eight federal buildings across, and 100 buildings will become all-electric. Last month, the Department of Energy announced $90 million in competitive awards funded through the bipartisan Infrastructure and Investment Jobs Act (IIJA) to help states, cities, tribes, and partnering organizations implement updated energy codes for buildings that will make buildings more climate resilient and efficient. 

In response, Sierra Club Building Electrification Campaign Director Jessica Tritsch released the following statement:

“Too often renters and folks in low-income housing are left behind from programs that offer energy efficiency upgrades that lower utility bills and provide better housing stability. This move by HUD will help ensure better access to climate-friendly appliances and healthier, more affordable homes. Adopting these new energy building codes is long overdue. We are committed to holding HUD, and other federal and state agencies, accountable to help low-income homeowners and renters access clean, safe, energy efficient housing.”