Design Snapshot — Chicago’s Multi-Family Energy Retrofit Program: Expanding Retrofits With Private Financing

Mark Muro and Sarah Rahman

The city of Chicago is increasing retrofits by using stimulus dollars to expand the opportunity for energy efficient living to low-income residents of large multi-family rental buildings. To aid this target demographic, often left underserved by existing programs, the city’s new Multi-Family Energy Retrofit Program introduces an innovative model for retrofit delivery that relies on private sector financing and energy service companies.

Chicago’s new Multi-Family Energy Retrofit Program draws on multi-sector collaboration, with an emphasis on private sector involvement supported by public and nonprofit resources. Essentially, the program applies the model of private energy service companies (ESCOs), long-used in the public sector, to the affordable, multi-family housing market. In this framework, ESCOs conduct assessments of building energy performance, identify and oversee implementation of cost-effective retrofit measures, and guarantee energy savings to use as a source of loan repayment.