The Honorable Kathy Hochul
Governor of New York State
NYS State Capitol Building
Albany, NY 12224
October 20, 2021
Dear Governor Hochul:
Congratulations on your elevation to Governor of New York. We represent organizations committed to fighting climate change with equitable solutions that benefit the communities suffering the worst impacts of pollution and with the least access to clean energy. We urge you to make a massive investment in better buildings in New York, starting in disadvantaged urban and rural communities, where buildings are the least efficient and costs are highest.
Better buildings means housing that is affordable, free of indoor pollution, and environmentally sustainable. It means workplaces and schools that are comfortable, healthy, and sustainable. Better buildings should contribute to resilient communities where the rights of tenants and undocumented residents are protected, and where generational wealth can be built by Black and Brown households.
Buildings account for one-third of New York’s greenhouse gas emissions because most of us still warm our spaces, cook our food, and heat our water by burning fossil fuels right inside our buildings. Now, we must equitably phase out these fossil fuels and ensure that people can afford to switch to modern geothermal and air source heat pumps and induction stoves – a process called beneficial electrification.
Please take action in your upcoming State of the State and 2022 legislative agenda to:
- Set a state target of at least 2 million new and existing energy-efficient, all-electric homes by 2030, at least half of which will be new and existing affordable housing in and for Disadvantaged Communities
- Create a Green Affordable Housing Fund for Disadvantaged Communities
- End fossil fuel expansion with building standards and utility regulation
- Create thousands of high quality, high-paying career jobs, with priority for Disadvantaged Communities and priority populations
In New York State, we take pride in having passed the most aggressive and equitable climate legislation in the country. But we have woefully underinvested in housing in Black, Brown and low-income communities, compounding decades of harm from redlining, gentrification and inequitable access to everything from heating and air-conditioning to shade trees. This legacy of disinvestment has led to deferred maintenance and the presence of mold, asbestos, and lead in our homes. These hazards harm our health, create barriers to weatherization and energy efficiency, and contribute to disproportionate exposure to extreme heat and cold. Now, we are learning that combustion of fossil fuels for cooking and heating exacerbates asthma and other respiratory ailments. A report from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health published in May shows that New York leads the nation in premature deaths from burning gas in buildings with almost 1,000 deaths annually.
The following steps can remedy these ills and put our state on the path to a just and equitable transition:
Make at least 2 million homes all-electric, highly efficient by 2030
We call on you to set a statewide target of at least 2 million energy-efficient, all-electric homes by 2030, with at least half representing existing or new affordable housing in and for Disadvantaged Communities, as will be identified by the Climate Action Council’s Climate Justice Working Group.
Launch a Green Affordable Housing Fund for Disadvantaged Communities
Build upon your $59 million building decarbonization initiative for schools in disadvantaged communities with a major public investment in fossil-free buildings in Disadvantaged Communities. This fund should pay for tightening the building envelope, improving heat pump and induction stove incentives, upgrading electrical panels, and developing new high performance affordable multifamily buildings. It should also provide weatherization and pre-electrification funding and financing to address the health hazards, structural issues, and electrical requirements needed for efficiency and electrification. Without these investments in pre-efficiency and pre-electrification measures, many buildings – particularly those in Disadvantaged Communities – will not be able to electrify, which will deepen existing inequities. The Fund should leverage federal funding and refundable tax credits with new and existing programs at NYSERDA, the NY Green Bank, Homes and Community Renewal (HCR), the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York (DASNY), the New York Power Authority (NYPA) and the state’s utilities. The Green Bank alone could invest $500 million in this sector, and if New York deployed just 5% of its American Rescue Plan funds to upgrade affordable housing, as Maine has done, we could invest another $600 million.
End fossil fuel expansion with building standards and utility regulation
Modernize building codes to require new buildings to be all-electric and highly efficient, starting in 2024 with accommodations for technical feasibility. Phase out fossil fuels from existing buildings, and launch programs today that pave the way for a 2028 all-electric standard for new heating equipment and appliances. Ensure that all large buildings benchmark and report their energy usage transparently. Lead by example by encouraging K-12 schools to decarbonize and requiring all state buildings and public colleges to be retrofitted and fully electrified.
These standards should be complemented by supportive energy utility regulations that:
- remove subsidies that fund utility gas line extensions to new customers,
- require a gas planning process that imposes emissions limits on gas utilities and delivers on the equitable clean energy transition mandated by the CLCPA,
- address operating costs by ensuring affordable electricity, delivering on and going beyond the promise that no household should pay more than 6% of their income for energy, and
- finalize a regulatory plan and pathway in 2022 for fully phasing out fossil fuels in buildings.
Create thousands of high quality, high-paying career jobs, with priority for Disadvantaged Communities and priority populations
NYSERDA’s Clean Energy Industry Report shows we have already created over 125,000 jobs for building contractors, electricians, plumbers and others to make our buildings more energy efficient — over three quarters of New York’s clean energy jobs. Adopting policies to drive electrification and dramatically increase coverage of affordable housing can more than double this figure, help us rebuild our economy, and make New York a jobs and economic powerhouse in decarbonization. The state should ensure that at least half of these jobs go to Disadvantaged Communities and should create on-the-job training and certification/degree programs, union apprenticeship programs, and regional hiring halls. Heat pump and induction stove bulk purchasing programs could attract manufacturing to the state. State agencies can also encourage the development of clean thermal utility networks, which show promise to retrain utility workers and scale clean heating in populated areas. In short, all agencies engaged in building decarbonization and energy efficiency should fully leverage their procurement, contracting, licensing, permitting, credentialing, program participation, subsidy, and incentive power vis-a-vis industry to lock in enforceable commitments to job access (recruitment, hiring, etc.) and job quality (wages, benefits, working conditions, etc.) to see verifiable and sustainable returns on public investment in job training and workforce development.
You have an opportunity to transform New York’s buildings with funding and policies that will improve our health and quality of life, increase housing affordability in underserved, under-represented, and historically excluded communities, and create hundreds of thousands of good jobs — all while attacking the climate crisis head on.
We look forward to sharing more details and working with you to make a historic investment to improve our living conditions, our health, our economy, and our climate.