Housing and Energy Equity: How are Communities of Color Benefiting from Clean Energy Developments?

Over 40 community members braved the cold and snow on Thursday, January 8th, to gather at Phillips Community Center for our third BCLI Issue Series of the season.  Co-hosted with the Center for Earth, Energy and Democracy (CEED), we brought together a panel of environmental justice and housing advocates to explore the question: How do the issues of affordable housing, environmental sustainability, and racial justice interlink?

1-8-15 Issue Series

Check out the photo gallery here, and listen to the audio of speakers below.

Shalini Gupta, Executive Director of CEED, kicked off the evening with an introduction to energy equity and the explanation of green zones. She highlighted key data including:

  • Low-income families, many of whom are from communities of color, pay  up to 17 percent of their income on utilities and energy due to electric heating and drafty homes, in addition to being cost burdened and paying 30 percent or more for housing.
  • Many of the funding opportunities and incentives for energy efficiency and green energy development are taken advantage of by homeowners rather than renters, further burdening low-income residents paying for high energy costs.

Check out Gupta’s PowerPoint here for more information, and listen to her audio below.

The panelists then jumped into an exploration of the energy issues within affordable housing, racial justice and a current green initiative, Minneapolis’ Clean Energy Partnership. Click below to listen to the full panel (skip ahead to each panelist: ThaoMee Xiong :02; CM Elizabeth Glidden 7:28; Kathy Wetzel-Mastel 16:44).

Panelists 1-8-15

ThaoMee Xiong, Policy Director of Minnesota Housing Partnership, shared her perspective as an organizer working with and within communities of color, and the current work that MHP is embarking upon doing research on best administrative practices and legislative policies that benefit communities of color in general and specifically in Greater Minnesota.

Council Member Elizabeth Glidden, Minneapolis Ward 8 City Council Member and also serves as the Council Vice President, discussed her work with the Clean Energy Partnership, a first-of-its-kind partnership with the City of Minneapolis, Xcel Energy and CenterPoint Energy “which will have the City and the utility companies collaborating in new ways to help Minneapolis achieve its clean energy goals.” CM Glidden shared that a community advisory board will be created to help guide the new Clean Energy Partnership, and invited the community to apply for these seats.

Kathy Wetzel-Mastel, Executive Director of PRG, Inc., spoke to her work as a housing developer in the Twin Cities area. Wetzel-Mastel highlighted the importance of responding to the needs of the community ensuring energy-efficiency in the development of affordable housing to guarantee ongoing affordability of units.

The evening concluded with Q & A between panelists and the audience. Listen to the full Q & A in the link below, or see the list of questions beneath the link.

  1. (:44) What does ‘diverse interests’ mean, and how will people of color be on decision-making boards rather than just advisory boards?
  2. (10:15) Can you create some kind of reporting system where utility bill payments can be trade-lines that can be reported as a way to improve credit scores for low-income renters paying such high utility bills?
  3. (13:23) How are all of you reaching out to others to share this [technical information and awareness of opportunities] knowledge in community? How can you ensure the Clean Energy Partnership advisory board will have people of color on it to help make decisions?
  4. (18:50) With resources coming in from federal, state and municipalities, are there going to be minority participation goals implemented to ensure equal distribution among communities of color?