Go Green, Save Money, Save the Earth: Weatherization help for rental properties

Kim Hornung-Marcy

February 27, 2023

Does your church have rental property?

It is not uncommon for a Federated or United Methodist Church to have a parsonage or apartment that they decide to rent to others. Sometimes churches specifically choose to rent to a low-income neighbor. 
Many of our New England states have programs that either offer free weatherization or loan money at very low interest rates to weatherize properties that are rented to low-income residents. These measures can save both that renter and the church money. To research your options, go to your state’s link on this website: https://www.neumc.org/creationcare
Vermont, for example, has five non-profits that cover the state and offer free weatherization for low-income homeowners and to property owners whose buildings have low-income renters. If the person renting – or for multiple units half of the renters in the building – qualify by income, then the weatherization is free for the property owner and the renter. This includes the energy audit, insulation, and upgrades in the heating system or the addition of air and hot water heat pumps where appropriate. 
The average home in Vermont qualifying for this program receives roughly $8,000-$10,000 worth of services. The average homeowner sees a 35% reduction in their heating costs, which translates to over $500. For low-income people that makes a huge difference. In Vermont, sadly, low-income people often pay as much as 51% of their income toward their energy bills. Renters are usually our lowest income people and home ownership is often harder for groups that have experienced discrimination, so this is a justice issue! 

Wider impact of weatherization

Our states are scrambling to lower their emissions, and weatherization is a huge part of this. Lowering emissions helps everyone. The medical community reminds us that “8.7 million people die due to particulate pollution caused by burning fuels every year.”* 
Climate change threatens the health, safety and well-being of every living thing. When buildings are weatherized they become more efficient. This reduces the need to build out our electric grids. The occupants are more comfortable and healthier as good insulation increases comfort and decreases pollution entering the home. 
If your church does have rental property, you should explore whether you qualify for help with weatherization. Faithfulness asks us to be good neighbors and do the work that fights climate change and helps others. 
And even if you do not rent out a building, encouraging low-income parishioners or people they know to take advantage of free weatherization programming is important. Some churches have seen their low-income parishioners gain significant help through this programing. It is life changing. 

It is important to stress that when people take advantage of these programs, it helps us all. Everyone is better off when homes reduce emissions and become more efficient. Fighting climate change through weatherization and efficiency helps the entire earth. 
*NRDC article siting this scientific paper: Karn Vohra, Alina Vodonos, Joel Schwartz, Eloise A. Marais, Melissa P. Sulprizio, Loretta J. Mickley, Global mortality from outdoor fine particle pollution generated by fossil fuel combustion: Results from GEOS-Chem, in Environmental Research, 2021 Vol 195,110754, (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0013935121000487).