Affordable Housing Community

Low-income families often have a higher energy burden, meaning they spend a higher percentage of their income on energy costs. According to DOE’s Low-Income Energy Affordability Data (LEAD) Tool, the average energy burden for low- income households is three times higher than for non-low-income households. Owners of “affordable” housing properties are often faced with high energy bills and maintenance costs, and struggle to sustain truly affordable rental housing for their low-income families. Investing in energy efficiency in affordable housing means improved resident comfort, lower energy bills, more stable rental payments, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions, but it’s not always clear what investments make sense.

Whether you are a Housing Finance Agency or Affordable Housing Program, ENERGY STAR can help your housing communities achieve their goals.

In the same way that EPA's ENERGY STAR program establishes energy efficiency requirements for building products, equipment, lights and appliances that display that well-known blue ENERGY STAR label, ENERGY STAR offers a label to recognize energy efficient new homes and apartments that meet its requirements. Requirements are verified onsite by trained and certified 3rd party energy raters, many of whom are also energy code inspectors.

Incorporating the ENERGY STAR Residential New Construction program into the guidelines you use to create energy-efficient affordable housing allows you to leverage a fully supported nationally recognized above-code building program with readily-available training resources and technical assistance.

Additionally, requiring ENERGY STAR certification provides numerous additional benefits, including:

  • Energy-saving measures selected by building scientists that are cost-effective and improve indoor air quality.
  • High quality construction, inspected and tested by a third-party verifier, with recognized credentials and subject to Quality Assurance protocols.
  • Straightforward approach to demonstrate compliance with efficiency goals for all housing types: just ask for the ENERGY STAR certificate.

You are the housing experts. We are the energy-efficient construction experts. Together, we can create better homes for those who need it most.

Housing Finance Agencies

Housing finance agencies (HFA) are often tasked with administering low-income housing tax credits and awarding other competitive financing to affordable housing developments. Funded properties are held to high standards for affordability. In order to ensure those goals are met, often HFA’s establish their own minimum requirements for energy efficiency. However, it can take significant internal resources for an HFA to develop these requirements, let alone verify that they are implemented as required or updated as available technology evolves.


Specifying ENERGY STAR certification in Qualified Allocation Plans (QAPs) and other construction standards enables HFA’s to shift the responsibility for developing energy-efficient affordable housing to a government-backed agency with a team of building science experts that know how to identify requirements that will save your residents energy.

ENERGY STAR is required to be cost effective. The costs for the above-code measures are evaluated and compared to the estimated utility bill savings.

More information on the incremental costs to build to ENERGY STAR and the associated utility bill savings can be found in the Additional Resources section of the MFNC National Program Requirements page.

The blue label can make it easier to demonstrate Low Income Housing Tax Credits are being utilized wisely, can help maximize the impacts of public and private investment, and ultimately show that these investments are bringing positive impact to affordable housing residents.

This is what finance agencies have to say:

“We focused on utilizing our funds for the best and highest use. We are stewards of the environment through financing properties that have positive environmental outcomes. Our construction standards facilitate the design and construction of housing with as much quality, durability, environmental and financial sustainability as resources permit. We adopted ENERGY STAR certification as the best way to ensure that financed new construction projects will actually perform as designed.”

Affordable Housing Programs

Did you know that Habitat for Humanity is one of the nation's top 25 builders of ENERGY STAR certified homes?

Affordable housing programs (AHP), like Habitat for Humanity, Enterprise Green Communities, and Public Housing Authorities (PHAs), also play a significant role in the development and rehabilitation of housing opportunities throughout the country. When AHPs build new multifamily developments (both low rise and high rise), the ENERGY STAR Residential New Construction program offers a great opportunity to introduce a thorough design process that can reduce both short and long-term risk for the AHP and the occupants. By specifying important energy efficiency measures in the design, ENERGY STAR certification helps contribute to both high-quality housing and lower-cost operations. 

Affordable housing programs at the federal, state, and local level also establish the quality standards and rent limits that must be met by assisted projects in order to protect the health, safety, and financial resources of residents. The lower utility costs and stabilized project operating expenses that are achievable through ENERGY STAR certification can also allow a project’s finances to support more private debt and equity.

“ENERGY STAR has been a superior partner. As we or project teams have run into challenges, we’ve found the ENERGY STAR team to be accessible, thoughtful and willing to provide technical support. We’ve really appreciated the partnership. Being able to point to one national energy-efficiency and quality control standard for all of new construction is a huge value-add for our program, allowing us to focus on other priorities.”

-Krista Egger, VP, Enterprise Green Communities

Get green and ENERGY STAR blue

Constructing housing that is affordable is important, but we know you want your residents to also have access to healthy, durable, sustainable homes. When developing policies that seek to reward or require green or sustainable building practices or certifications, EPA recommends explicitly referencing certification for ENERGY STAR in addition to the green building program(s). This ensures that the energy-saving benefits of ENERGY STAR are achieved and remain consistent across funded properties, regardless of the green building program selected.

EPA suggests using the following language to ensure your program gets the full benefit of ENERGY STAR:

"New construction residential buildings must achieve ENERGY STAR Single Family New Homes or ENERGY STAR Multifamily New Construction certification."

Learn more about how A Green Home Begins with ENERGY STAR Blue.