With the looming 40% increase in fuel costs reported by National Grid, this article from Business First of Louisville is a reminder of the significant increase in the basic cost of living for many Americans. There can be no doubt that energy bills per month are much higher in Buffalo.
Moreover, these figures are taken during the month of August and therefore reflect gas costs outside of winter.
What is desperately needed if low-income families are expected to keep up with the high cost of heat would be:
1) Raise the welfare grant to reflect true cost of living. Currently, TANF allots $54/month for heating costs. This does not reflect the true cost of heat.
2) Support the development of green building policies and weatherization programs. These policies would not only increase the energy efficiency of homes throughout New York State but would also support construction jobs, thereby strengthening our economy from the ground up. Low-income families living in more energy efficient homes would be able to save the money currently being thrown away on gas, or spend it on other basic needs such as transportation or health care.
More on this behind the jump.
Report: Energy efficiency key to housing affordability
Business First of Louisville
Making low-income dwellings more energy efficient is a critical factor in housing affordability, according to a new report by the Metropolitan Housing Coalition.
The Louisville nonprofit group’s 2008 report notes that the average Louisville gas bill has risen to $134.78 in August 2008 from $38.56 in August 1998.
“Louisville and our metro area no longer have the low energy costs of the past decades, yet we live with the legacy of housing construction that relied on low energy costs,” said Cathy Hinko, coalition executive director. “Most of the homes in Louisville were built before insulation became a requirement in the local building code. As we look at the age of homes and concentrations of low-income households, we see that the very people least able to afford high consumption live in homes built without energy efficiency measures.”
The report said the coalition is working with Louisville Metro government and LG&E to address the needs of those living in low-income households.
The group plans to partner with weatherization agencies and community groups and ministries to increase energy efficiency in low-income housing for the coming winter.
According to the report, 14.5 percent of all metropolitan Louisville residents have incomes below the federal poverty level and the median wage for 37 percent of all wage earners in the Louisville MSA is less than the $12.75 per hour average wage needed to afford a two-bedroom rental unit at fair market rent.
There currently are more than 15,600 households on a waiting list for a subsidized housing unit or housing vouchers, the coalition reported.
“With the tragically escalating numbers of children in our school systems who are homeless and with the ever increasing numbers of foreclosures, the time has come to focus on what is happening to people,” Hinko said in the news release.
Homelessness also has had an impact on Louisville’s educational system.
About 7,600 homeless students were enrolled in Jefferson County Public Schools in the 2007-08 school year, up 300 students from the previous school year, the coalition reported. It projected that the number of homeless students will increase during the 2008-09 year.
For more information on the 2008 State of Metropolitan Housing Report, visit http://www.metropolitanhousing.org.