The Threat of Climate Change for Renters
When one thinks about the history of redlining in the US and how less desirable uses (and entire communities) were zoned for less desirable land, it may be no surprise that affordable rental housing now finds itself in a precarious state. Recently, Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies reported that 40 percent of the country’s occupied rental stock – nearly 18 million units – is in areas that are vulnerable to climate-enhanced disasters. Given that households headed by a person of color are twice as likely to rent as to own, threats to rental housing also represent true threats to achieving racial equity.
Renters are particularly vulnerable to climate change. More extreme weather means greater demands for heating and cooling – with little ability to weatherize one’s home. When climate results in disasters that damage properties and possessions, renters may lack the appropriate insurance to cover their losses or have little standing to access federal recovery assistance. And many renters – particularly low- and moderate-income ones – find themselves in buildings that may already be suffering from disinvestment and, therefore, even less likely to withstand extreme weather impacts, such as recurrent flooding, wildfires, or other risks.
The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), signed into law in August 2022, offers some promise for renters at risk of increased impacts from climate change. IRA provides more than $25 billion to invest in energy efficiency, decarbonization, and climate resilience across a handful of programs to be implemented by four federal agencies: HUD, DOE, EPA, and Treasury. But without an explicit focus on renters and multifamily buildings, IRA may fail to direct benefits to households and homes that can most benefit from the investments.
NHT’s Todd Nedwick recently discussed how climate change impacts renters – and how IRA can address the opportunities to improve rental housing – on PRX’s “Living On Earth” podcast. Listen to the full interview here.
You can also learn more about IRA and how it can advance more resilient affordable housing in our NHT Policy Brief.