Energy Costs, Warming Climate Spark Stricter Energy Codes for Housing

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) have been prompted to adopt updated energy standards for new single and multi-family homes as eelctricity costs grow and the need for climate-proof homes rises with the temperature.

A patchwork of state regulations allows cities and counties to determine energy and building codes, which are often outdated, as the Midwest Newsroom reported in 2023.

Announced by HUD in April, the new rules require residential construction projects funded by HUD to meet current standards for insulation, air sealing, efficient windows, lighting and heating and cooling systems.

“Many people have been caught by surprise when utility costs spike,” said Marion McFadden, a HUD deputy assistant secretary. “Families should never have to find themselves making hard choices about whether to heat their home in winter or use cooling during a heat wave.”

According to NPR, HUD supports affordable housing for more than 4.3 million low-income families through its public housing, rental subsidy and voucher programs.

In 2022, consumers on average paid 14% more for electricity than in 2021, according to Consumer Price Index data. A review of state level trends in some Midwest states shows the average price of electricity growing steadily since 2018.

“Homes are not being built to the latest and most up to date building and energy efficiency codes which, if they were, would significantly reduce housing and energy costs,” said Mark Kresowik, senior policy director at the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy.

HUD estimates that implementing the current International Energy Conservation Code, set by the International Code Council, will save households up to $950 a year. In new multifamily housing four stories and above, these standards save households $224 per apartment per year, according to HUD.

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