- Boston will give grants to 10 owners of two- to four-unit housing to electrify their buildings through measures such as heat pump installation and weatherization, the city announced Thursday.
- There are several stipulations for the owners, who will be selected through an October lottery and can get up to $50,000 per unit: They must live in the building, have a household income below a certain threshold and charge below a certain amount for rent, plus the building must have been built before 1999.
- As the Boston Home Center, part of the Mayor’s Office of Housing, scales up to become a decarbonization department, “this pilot project will provide important lessons and proof of concept for growth in the coming years,” Boston Green New Deal Director Oliver Sellers Garcia said.
The announcement is the latest in a string of building decarbonization actions taken by Boston. In March, the city launched a separate program funded by $10 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds that targets “green retrofits” in large, aging, affordable housing developments.
But smaller two- to four-unit buildings are “the most common building type” in Boston, Mayor Michelle Wu said in a statement. The city and stakeholders seem to have high hopes that the pilot program announced this week will provide valuable building decarbonization lessons.
“The pilot is designed to serve as a model for other communities, with the anticipation that lessons learned will be readily applicable to diverse building types and sizes beyond Boston,” the city said in a news release. Chris Porter, director of customer energy management for utility National Grid, echoed this sentiment in a statement, saying that the “groundbreaking program can be a model in helping all customers reduce their carbon footprint.”
The city says the work will give residents better indoor air quality and comfort, along with lower utility bills. But the city also wants to avoid the upgraded housing resulting in the displacement of current tenants, and building owners given grants are not allowed to displace tenants in good standing or unreasonably raise rent as a result of the retrofits.
The grants will be disbursed in the form of loans forgiven after 10 years, which must be repaid in full if the owner moves, sells, refinances or transfers the title of the home before the term ends. Selected building owners will also receive comprehensive energy assessments and construction management services. According to the city, “a qualified decarbonization advisor” will help building owners identify the best retrofit opportunities for their specific building.
Eligible building owners must have an annual household income at or below 120% of the area median income. That means an eligible one-person household can’t make more than $124,680 annually. The building owner also can’t charge rent that is unaffordable to tenants that make at or below 80% of the area median income. By those rules, an owner can’t charge more than $2,033 for a two-bedroom unit.
Buildings located in federally determined high-risk flood hazard zones are also not eligible for the program.