Natalie's October Column in the Leominster Champion: Going Green: Bill would retrofit older homes in Gateway Cities
Growing up in a Gateway City, I’m thankful I can be the proud homeowner of my great-grandparents’ home. With that long family history also means challenges of owning a home from 1920. Recognizing those challenges for households across the state, I am teaming up with Environment Massachusetts and the Massachusetts Climate Action Network, along with Rep. Michael Kushmerek (Fitchburg) and Sen. Brendan Crighton (Lynn) on new legislation: The GREEN Act: Gateway Cities Renewable, Efficient, and Electrified Neighborhoods (H3320/S2152).
If you’re not familiar with the term, a Gateway City is defined in state law as a city with a population between 35,000 and 250,000, with an average household income below the state average, and an average educational attainment rate (bachelor’s degree or above) below the state average. Leominster and Fitchburg are both Gateway Cities. Many houses and apartments in Gateway Cities were built more than a century ago. These buildings often use energy inefficiently, due to a lack of insulation, old appliances, and outdated lighting fixtures. Most homes burn oil or gas for heating, and residents — particularly low- and moderate-income families — may lack the opportunity to switch to cleaner alternatives.
With the right support and incentives, houses and apartments can be retrofitted to be efficient, fossil-fuel-free, and powered with renewable electricity. The result will be cleaner, healthier, and safer communities for all. Gateway Cities, as well as smaller communities with similar demographics, have an important role to play in the statewide transition to 100% renewable energy. The GREEN Act will bring together residents, building owners, community organizations, and municipal and state officials to create solutions for energy-efficient, pollution-free homes. Through innovative action at the local level, these communities can lead the Commonwealth toward a greener future.
The GREEN Act will establish a new program to retrofit low- and moderate-income housing in Gateway Cities and in smaller communities with similar demographics. Phase 1 of the GREEN Initiative will fund at least one project in each Gateway City and an additional ten projects in smaller communities each year, focusing on naturally occurring affordable housing units. Each project will retrofit at least 10 housing units to be highly efficient, use clean heating and cooking technologies, and, where possible, be powered with energy from rooftop solar panels. Local governments and nonprofit organizations will oversee the projects and share the results with the broader community. The GREEN Initiative will provide additional incentives and technical support to assist with retrofits, in coordination with existing state and utility programs. After two years, the Department of Energy Resources will collect data on the results of Phase 1 and identify the most effective retrofit approaches for each housing type. DOER will convene an interagency task force to design and oversee Phase 2 of the GREEN Initiative, which will continue for at least eight more years.