Energy Burden and the Need for Integrated Low-Income Housing and Energy Policy

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Contributed date

May 16, 2020 - 12:02am

Critical Commentary

This article was published for DHHS by two authors from Columbia University and Clarkson University. The authors suggest that in terms of policy making, a more coherent approach would be to integrate home energy and housing policy and that integrating programs in each area would be a better way to solve energy burdens for low income tenants. They confirm that "utilities hardships are a major component of the housing affordability crisis for low-income families with payment accountability."

Using field observations and qualititative research on housing challenges in inner city Boston, the authors found the byproduct of their research related to household energy burden. The authors identified a gap in awareness of the link between energy and housing policy that was obvious to consumers but often lost on policy makers. They point out that LIHEAP and other subsidy programs are uncoordinated and not providing the relief they could be. "The research reveals three separate but interrelated consequences of energy burden: (a) illness and stress, (b) financial challenges, and (c) housing instability". "Housing instability refers to shut-offs resulting from non-payment or frequent residential mobility stemming from an inability to secure proper housing due to high utility expenses and/or a history of utility debt."  This residential mobility and inablity to secure proper housing is what I am interested in exploring. The authors offer "policy directives in three key areas that can effect change and require harmonization: (1) energy conservation; (2) energy literacy; (3) utility rate affordability and relief."  This article will be 10 years old in November so it will be interesting to follow up on current policy and practice to determine if any new harmony has been achieved. 


Poverty Public Policy. 2010 November ; 2(4): 5–25. doi:10.2202/1944-2858.1095.



Cite as

Diana Hernandez and Stephen Bird, "Energy Burden and the Need for Integrated Low-Income Housing and Energy Policy", contributed by Roya Haider, The Energy Rights Project, Platform for Experimental Collaborative Ethnography, last modified 16 May 2020, accessed 29 November 2022.