Grant aids closer look at rental property energy efficiency

Staff Writer
Monday, July 04, 2022

AMHERST — A project that will identify ways to make rental homes in Amherst more energy efficient, and increase access to clean energy for low- and moderate-income families, is being supported by a $25,000 state grant.

The town and Family Outreach of Amherst, a program of the Center for Human Development, recently received the Innovation and Capacity Building Grant. They are among 32 organizations, nonprofits and communities across the state sharing grants totaling $2.2 million that will support clean-energy programs for underserved populations, with larger grants going toward implementation projects.

In Amherst, the grant will pay for tenant outreach that will lead to understanding concerns and priorities for renters. Then, this information will be used to design innovative programs or policies in the community, such as adopting efficiency standards for rentals.

Amherst Sustainability Coordinator Stephanie Ciccarello said in a statement that engagement with renters is crucial as the town focuses on its climate goals and reducing greenhouse gases.

“The town, via the Energy and Climate Action Committee, has made addressing the energy efficiency of rental complexes one of its priorities,” Ciccarello said.

“Helping tenants find their voice and advocate for themselves is one of CHD’s Family Outreach of Amherst’s core philosophies,” Laura Reichsman, director of Family Outreach, said in a statement.

Amherst will enter into a contract with Family Outreach of Amherst to develop the renter survey and a strategy for community engagement.

The funding comes through the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center’s EmPower Massachusetts Program, part of Gov. Charlie Baker’s efforts to prioritize what are known as environmental justice communities, while also supporting the clean energy industry in Massachusetts through workforce development, buildings and transportation.

“It is critical that we confront the challenges of global climate change at a local level by moving purposefully and quickly to a clean energy future,” Baker said in announcing the grants.

In the Pioneer Valley, another $25,000 planning grant went to the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, in partnership with Valley Home Insulation, Arise for Social Justice, Neighbor2Neighbor MA and Springfield Works. That money will go toward outreach to Black and brown Springfield residents and industry experts to understand the concept of a Green Workforce Business Initiative.

An example of a larger implementation award is the $150,000 going to GreenRoots and the city of Boston to implement a solar education and outreach program in East Boston. The focus there will be on installing affordable solar photovoltaics and battery storage for area residents, especially low- and moderate-income residents.

To further expand opportunities like the EmPower program, Baker recently filed the FORWARD Act, which directs $750 million in funding toward the clean energy industry. The EmPower program would receive $300 million of this.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.