Community Solar and HUD Subsidized Housing: Policies, Programs and Practices

July 28, 2022

In response to President Biden’s Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad, which called for a whole-of-government approach to address climate, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released a climate adaptation and resilience plan, recognizing that scaling up the deployment of renewable energy is a necessary strategy. If implemented at full potential, renewable energy can strongly support the Justice40 Initiative, which aims to deliver 40 percent of the overall benefits that result from federal government investments to disadvantaged communities.

To ensure efficient use of time and resources, it will be important for HUD to support existing renewable energy programs. Solar energy programs can be a solution to address both climate and housing disparities, but the benefits from traditional solar programs have difficulty reaching residents of subsidized affordable housing. Barriers to participation include the upfront costs for affordable housing owners, as well as the split incentives between building owners and renters, the latter of which lack the agency to install solar on their buildings. In most cases, access to community solar programs is the only way to make it possible for households with housing subsidies to participate in solar programs, and in turn support the necessary deployment of renewable energy to combat climate change.

In this new paper, the authors discuss the opportunity to expand solar access to renters living in subsidized affordable housing. This overview:

  • describes the current state and barriers to solar access for disadvantaged communities,
  • conducts a high-level review of existing community solar program structures and goals based on readily-available information,
  • presents the opportunity to extend HUD utility allowance guidance for the California Solar on Multifamily Affordable Housing (SOMAH) and DC Solar for All programs to similarly designed community solar programs, and
  • provides recommendations for increasing access to community solar for households in HUD-subsidized buildings.

SAHF Community Solar and HUD Subsidized Housing Overview