Renewable Energy

Renewable energy can lower a home’s carbon emissions and provide a clean, reliable energy source.  Bringing renewable energy home to affordable housing requires policies and tools to ensure that everyone can benefit from these solutions A growing number of states are adopting community solar policies and encouraging renewable energy and the Inflation Reduction Act will provide new pathways.  SAHF and its members are working closely with residents, policymakers and partners to scale renewable solutions.

SAHF members have installed over 150 residential renewable energy solutions, including on-site solar photovoltaic systems, solar thermal systems for water heating, and geothermal heat pump system for heating and cooling. SAHF member, National Housing Trust has gone a step further by developing an ownership model that enables an affordable housing provider to own, operate, and manage solar installations. NHT Renewable develops and operates solar systems on top of affordable housing across the country. Since 2014, NHT Renewable has partnered with other housing owners to design, finance, and install 1.5 Megawatts of solar power across 25 affordable housing rooftops in Washington, D.C. Learn more here.

Community Solar

Community solar programs allow affordable housing residents to more easily access renewable energy without upfront costs or rooftop access.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Community Solar Partnership “broadly defined community solar to include any solar project or purchasing program, within a geographic area, in which the benefits flow to multiple participants.”

A community solar subscription means ownership of a financial share in a community solar project that serves multiple consumers. Subscribers can receive benefits regardless of homeownership status. Community solar provides an opportunity for renters, including households with low incomes participate in the benefits of solar with out the location requirements, up-front costs and financing qualifications that come with traditional solar installations.

Through an ongoing partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Community Solar Partnership – Multifamily Affordable Housing Collaborative, SAHF collaborates with multifamily housing providers and other industry partners to develop and promote community solar models and best practices that broaden access to the benefits of solar for both owners and residents of affordable housing.

Community Solar & Affordable Housing Policy

SAHF worked closely with the DOE National Community Solar Partnership (NCSP) to identify policy and program barriers that prevent affordable housing residents to access the benefits of community solar. In Community Solar and HUD Subsidized Housing: An Overview of Current Policies, Programs and Practices and the Impact to Tenant Utility Allowances and Income, SAHF, along with member NHT, highlighted how a lack of guidance from HUD on how community solar benefits affect resident utility allowances and income are chilling participation.

HUD has released a series of guidance documents to ensure that residents and affordable housing owners with community solar subscriptions can access the full economic benefits and clean energy without impacts to utility allowances income and other programs. These guidance documents were recently consolidated into one housing notice that has national applicability:

USDA also released a complementary guidance document that can be found here: 

In addition, HUD has issued specific guidance for some state community solar programs. As of August 2023, HUD has issued guidance for the following programs, in addition to broader guidance referenced above:

Community Solar & Resident Engagement

The National Community Solar Partnership (NCSP) provided tips on engaging residents when working on any future solar projects and communicating with them about the benefits of solar energy. This tip sheet highlights several strategies that should be used to build trust in community solar programs.