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ENPOR Lunch Talk: Will Fit for 55 help the energy poor?

The current trend of rising energy prices is a worrying one. Not only because it means that people will have to devote more of their salaries to simply pay for energy in their homes, but also because it exacerbates the already negative trend of energy poverty.

Energy poverty as phenomenon is not a universal one. It has many definitions and sources, but one people can agree on is that it is influenced by energy prices in a rather major way, as people paying exorbitant sums for energy, leaving them less and less money for themselves each month is problematic. As a way to ameliorate his, renovations and adherence to modern energy performance standards of buildings should be a priority, at least according to organizations and projects such as ENPOR.

What is ENPOR?

ENPOR is a project that aims to tackle two challenges: energy poverty in the private rental sector (PRS), and testing energy efficiency support schemes, identifying energy poor tenants and homeowners.

Objectives

ENPOR plans to tackle said challenges through three main objectives, them being:

To ensure ENPOR's success, a wide variety of partners and groups have been mobilized, ranging from homeowner associations through utilities companies, to NGOs or policymakers. Among the policymakers, the EU has been a key actor, especially after the inception of the EU Green Deal, the Renovation Wave Strategy and other schemes, among which we can count the Fit for 55 legislative package, new policies and regulations to steer the EU towards a more climate aware future. This was also the key topic at ENPOR's latest Lunch Talk.

Fit for 55

Fit for 55 presents the beginning of a new legislative direction for the EU for the upcoming years. It represents the basics of the EU Green Deal, New European Bauhaus as well as the Renovation Wave Strategy among others, all of which contribute to the larger idea. As per the EU definition:

Fit for 55 refers to the at least 55% emission reduction target which the EU has set for 2030. The proposed package aims to bring the EU’s climate and energy legislation in line with the 2030 goal.

Reducing emissions is the overall goal, and the legislative package is quite complex, as it targets many diverse sectors, such as energy, climate, transport, and housing. Obviously, energy and housing are very closely connected, which ENPOR itself picks out as the main area of interest.

To highlight a few relevant parts of the Fit for 55 package:

And these are just some of the important changes brought by the package.

Conversation at the Lunch Talk

At the Lunch Talk, the panel included representatives of different key stakeholders: Helene Sibileau (BPIE) Emmanuelle Causse and Emil Martini (UIPI), Louise Sunderland (RAP) as well as Gyorgy Sumeghy from Habitat for Humanity EMEA and Ina Karova from the Energy Agency of Plovdiv.

Energy efficient renovation of the existing housing stock is one of the main solutions to reduce energy poverty.

The above written was one of the main talking points of the Lunch Talk that the majority of the guests agreed on. In ENPOR's case, privately rented housing requires renovating those homes that need to overcome several existing conflicts and problems.

Fit for 55 is a very useful legislative package, however, it is also one that can have some seriously damaging consequences if not finetuned properly. According to the Commission, the Social Climate Fund, for example, will help lower the costs for those exposed to fossil fuel price increases during the transition to greener developments, but the issue is that the amount of proposed funding will be insufficient to deliver wide-spread renovations and renewables for energy poor households. As well as this the new emission trading system might also negatively impact energy pricing, making bills even pricier.

Gyorgy Sumeghy from Habitat for Humanity also contributed to the conversation, highlighting work in both REELIH and the ComAct project and saying that owner occupied multi-apartment buildings should be given the same attention as social housing in Western Europe. He proposed that it is the homeowner communities, who need to be convinced first to make the renovation happen, and that requires complex technical assistance and community facilitation. He suggested going for a lower, more sustainable subsidy schemes to incentivize people to also invest into renovation themselves, making it possible for programs to run longer.


For more information on the Lunch Talk and additional resources, please visit this site.

To see the recording of the session, please click here.

What is ComAct?

ComAct - Community Tailored Actions for Energy Poverty Mitigation is an EU funded Horizon2020 project that aims to make comprehensive energy efficient improvements in multi-family apartment buildings in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) and in the republics of the former Soviet Union (CIS).

The key is to make renovations affordable and manageable for energy poor communities, as well as to provide needed assistance for lifting said communities out of energy poverty.

The idea is to identify energy poor households and to create a new understanding of energy poverty. Next step is intervening across the three key dimensions, being it stakeholders and communities, the financial, and the technical one, and finally testing the approach in five pilot countries - Hungary, Bulgaria, Lithuania, North Macedonia and Ukraine.

Energy poverty is rather a complex concept. Hence a detailed and specific solutions are needed to tackle it, for which there is ComAct with its new report.

The overview report on energy poverty concept

The Overview report on the energy poverty concept is aimed at highlighting the need to tackle energy poverty as swiftly as possible, as it is an issue that acts as a gatekeeper against a higher standard of living. The report was put together by a consortium of organizations that contribute to ComAct - Building Performance Institute Europe, Metropolitan Research Institute, LVOA-ALCO, OHU, ENOVA, IWO, EnEffect, Burgas Municipality as well as Habitat for Humanity International and Habitat for Humanity Macedonia. All of these organizations brought together their best experts in the field of energy poverty and housing to deliver a report on the state of energy poverty within the five ComAct pilot countries, how energy-poor are identified there, and what financial and other supportive programs are in place to support them. Furthermore, the report has identified existing financial schemes from all over Europe, which have been proven to help alleviate energy poverty in multi-family apartment buildings (MFABs).

Some of the key findings related to the concept of energy poverty are:

Energy poverty in the pilot countries

As mentioned above, the report and the ComAct project itself focuses on five pilot countries of the CEE and CIS regions:

Countries in the CEE and CIS regions have the most energy-poor people in Europe, mainly due to high energy prices and poor energy efficiency of the buildings, heating systems and appliances. In these regions, the housing stock is predominantly privately-owned and characterized by a large percentage of MFABs. This is the result of mass privatization in the 1990s, along with the deconstruction of the social safety net: utility and energy costs of the flats massively rose, burdening the family budgets. At the same time, the socialist-era collective maintenance mechanisms were left behind, and the decay of homeowners’ associations has not been addressed effectively with a clear set solution.

To address the complex roots of energy poverty, there is a need to develop a new approach to make interventions affordable, substantially influence energy costs and consequently reduce the high energy poverty level in the CEE and CIS region.

Following is a short description of the state of energy poverty of each ComAct implementing country.

Hungary

Surprisingly, the country has a rather low level of energy poverty compared to other states within the ComAct project. Just around 5 to 10% of households are energy poor in Hungary. It is mostly the rural areas, specifically the family houses that are more affected. Nevertheless, MFABs have a myriad of other specific problems, such as a large number of apartment owners that make renovation more challenging from an organizational point of view. Hungary also uses the term 'vulnerable consumer' for law-making, which is a descriptor of social status. Problem is that there are no socially targeted renovation subsidies available, which might make it harder for Hungary to implement the coming EU Renovation Wave Strategy in the most effective way.

Bulgaria

Among the ComAct countries, Bulgaria has the highest share of energy-poor households, with a whopping 10 to 35% of households being energy poor, and with only 3.6% receiving a heating allowance. The current renovation program also lacks income components to help facilitate an alleviation of energy poverty in the country.

Lithuania

Following Bulgaria, Lithuania is the second energy poorest state, with an energy poverty level of 10-26%. MFABs in cities and towns are more affected than family houses in rural areas. There also is no official definition of energy poverty, but there are some measures like heating allowances and socially targeted renovation schemes, which aim at alleviating the energy poverty stricken owners.

North Macedonia

North Macedonia is very forward thinking, as it already addresses issue of energy poverty in several strategic documents, as well as through policies targeting vulnerable energy consumers. The number of energy-poor households is comparable to that of Lithuania and Bulgaria, which highlights how being within the EU does not automatically mean a higher standard of living, as it takes time and appropriate policy work. Although the condition of buildings in rural areas is worse, the problem of energy poverty is much more severe in urban areas due to the affordability of energy.

Ukraine

Ukraine has a large energy poverty problem since the cancellation of its high energy subsidies during the last five to six years. Not all subsidy schemes were abolished and some are still in place, but as there is a large energy-poor population and the building stock has a very low energy performance, it is difficult to target these schemes at the most vulnerable consumers.

The EU perspective on energy efficiency of buildings

Energy poverty has a long tradition inside the EU, hence according to the known regulations such as the National Energy and Climate Plans (NECPs), and also as a part of the Renovation Wave Strategy or the EU Green Deal, the EU has dedicated mechanisms to support building renovation, for which money is earmarked within the Recovery and Resilience Facility, as well as other instruments. Problem is though that the EU member state implementation is rather insufficient, and hence energy poverty is still a large issue.

All EU member states should ensure the necessary supply of energy for vulnerable customers and in doing so integrate an approach, which looks at various policy areas that could be used to measure and tackle energy efficiency improvements of housing. Effectively, these directives should acknowledge the existence of energy poverty and say that the protection of vulnerable consumers is a minimum requirement to eliminate it, keeping in mind that energy poverty is a broader concept than that of vulnerable customers.

Existing energy policies

The Clean Energy for Europeans package takes it a step further, as it consists of eight legislative proposals targeting various sectors: energy efficiency, energy performance of buildings, renewable energy, energy security and more. The Governance of the Energy Union and Climate Action Regulation also stipulates that EU member states should assess the number of energy-poor households, but measures and solutions are still not exactly clear. Similarly, the Energy Efficiency Directive tackles energy poverty in a way, in which it calls for measures to address vulnerable households as a priority. Lastly, under the revised Energy Performance of Buildings Directive, EU member states are required to outline relevant national measures to help alleviate energy poverty as part of their Long-term Renovation Strategies, to support the renovation of both residential and non-residential building stock.

Said legislations are also important for the Energy Community members, such as North Macedonia and Ukraine, although they have still not implemented the Clean Energy package, as their legislation is lagging behind that of EU member states.

All in all, the EU is primed to address energy poverty within and even outside the EU. However, if it means to do that properly, heavy cooperation with both the EU member states and the civil society experts will be necessary, as they are the ones with the real field expertise. And just as the overview report of ComAct illustrates, solutions must be direct and comprehensive, targeted at the most vulnerable energy consumers.


Find more information about ComAct on the official website of the project here.

For more information on the overview report and its findings, please visit this site.

What is the EU Green Week about?

The European Union is becoming very serious about creating a greener future and the annual event called EU Green Week only proves this fact. The week starting with the 31st of May, until the 4th of June was dedicated to hosting the annual series of events concerning how to tackle pollution. These events included high-level political debates, awards, virtual exhibitions, preview features and side-events, as well as the hundreds of the EU Green Week Partner activities staged all over Europe.

Pollution affects each of us through the air we breathe, the water we drink and the land that sustains us. Pollution can be present in our residences, making living conditions much worse than they should be. It is the largest environmental cause of both physical and mental illness, and a major factor in the premature death of children, people with medical conditions and the elderly.

The EU Green Week 2021 brought together different groups in society together with stakeholders and policymakers to thrash out the solutions and make the ambition for a zero-pollution and toxic-free environment a reality.

Air pollution and energy poverty

Perhaps the most interesting of the events that took place during the EU Green Week was a partner event, which discussed how to tackle and combine energy poverty and air pollution into a single-issue area. This event took place on the 3rd of June, and was organized by the new Energy Poverty Advisory Hub. This is a currently ongoing EU initiative aiming to build upon existing energy related structures, transforming the Energy Poverty Observatory into it, while using the Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy and the Clean Energy for EU Islands project as extensions of its base.

In large parts of Europe, low-income households often suffer from a combination of poor domestic heating systems, insufficient insulation and limited financial resources to access sustainable energy services. As a result, there is a visible impact on the air quality, which has a big impact on the livelihoods and health of residents. Therefore, this partner event focused on the tight connections between air quality and energy poverty, and how household energy renovations could be the answer to the problems of vulnerable energy consumers, such as those living in the region of Central and Eastern Europe, for example.

Analytics and good practices

The event was moderated by Jeppe Mikel Jensen from the Climate Alliance, which is a group dedicated to stopping further deterioration of the climate and environment. The speakers represented a wide variety of organizations across Europe, with people such as Teresa Aristegui, a Policy Officer from DG Energy, EU. She presented the EU’s views on how the Fit for 55 package will be one of the key measures in strengthening the energy performance of buildings to promote greener and healthier renovation.

Ina Karova from the Energy Agency of Plovdiv in Bulgaria, which is an agency that has been studying the link between energy poverty and air pollution for more than a decade, has contributed to the discussion, too. According to the investigation that Ina has been a part of,

energy poverty increases the use of raw materials for heating, as well as it creates a culture of low energy consumption, poor energy habits, lack of energy and environmental damage.

This is especially true for households heating with wood and coal, which they found to encapsulate the heaviest issues of energy poverty, such as poor housing conditions, cramped apartments, and the fact that the elderly and disabled live in even worse conditions than those heating with wood and oil.

Wood and coal are expensive, impractical, and ineffective materials for heating, hence a solution to tackle the alarming air quality that stems from such heating sources would be to change stoves into more efficient ones, upgrading boilers as well as a reduction in energy generation by using fossil and non-renewable fuels. This, according to their research, brought a 10% reduction in energy consumption and a 30% increase in air quality, which is a small, but significant win.

A living example of grave air pollution is also North Macedonia's capital city of Skopje. Back in 2019, Habitat for Humanity EMEA in cooperation with Habitat for Humanity Macedonia produced a short video "Winter, Leave" capturing the situation in Skopje to raise awareness and knowledge about this particular issue.

Joao Pedro Gouveia, a senior researcher from FCT-NOVA University of Lisbon, highlighted the issues of energy poverty in Portugal, but also shed a light into how such problems can be universal across Southern and Eastern Europe. According to him, it is also important to look at

different backgrounds standing behind the problems of energy poverty which definitely differ between EU regions.

Energy poverty is linked the abundance of harmful pollutants present in homes due to inefficient energy consumption. Electrification and a replacement of inefficient biomass and coal fueled equipment should, therefore, be a necessary step to address energy poverty as well as health related concerns.


Find more information about the EU Green Week and the recordings of the sessions here

Find more information about the transition of Energy Poverty Observatory here.

 

 

Another interesting event on the topic of energy poverty in Europe is taking place on November 20th and 21st in Brussels.

Energy Poverty Days

are organized by an initiative called Social Innovation to Tackle Energy Poverty. This initiative is co-created by the Schneider Electric Foundation and Ashoka under the aegis of Fondation de France and accompanied by a local partner Enel Romania.

This event is the final stage of the Social Innovation's program to support innovative ideas and mature projects working in the field of energy poverty in five European countries - Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria. 15 projects were selected to join 5 months acceleration program helping them improve the strategy and amplify their positive impact on society and on the environment. This program includes:

The Energy Poverty Days will be a two day conference. Day one is dedicated to a discussion of cross-sectoral perspectives on tackling energy poverty. This will be an interactive session introducing several examples of social innovation and strengthening the network among participants of the project, policymakers, researchers and social entrepreneurs attending the conference. The second day is reserved for finalists' presentations of smart solutions in their project in front of international jury who will choose the winning project for each of the five country. Most successful and winning projects will be awarded with additional grant for further development. You can find more details on the agenda here.

Habitat for Humanity International will not miss this event. Will you?

Energy as a basic human right? That is what Right to Energy Coalition (R2E) formed in 2017 believes is a key to overcoming the complex issue of energy poverty. Since then, R2E has been calling for a strategic action to tackle the root causes and consequences of energy poverty. There is need for an integrated and holistic policy approach in regards to energy poverty since the issue brings different challenges together. The R2E considers

warming world, increasing social inequality and unjust energy system

as the key areas contributing to energy poverty. Energy poverty is understood by R2E as a political choice that inevitably needs political response that is, however, many times lacking.

R2E's main points in reaching fair energy transition:

Connecting trade unions, anti-poverty organizations, social housing providers, environmental and health organizations and energy cooperatives, R2E organizes between June 19 and 20, 2019  Right to Energy Forum in Brussels, Belgium. During the workshops, conferences and two plenaries for collective reflection and strategizing, activists and specialists in energy poverty will meet, share and discuss the experience, stories, practical skills and challenging questions regarding the growing discontent in climate policies. Habitat for Humanity International will be there organizing a workshop on Energy poverty from Eastern European angle on the 19th of June 3:30 PM. Will you?


Find more information about Right to Energy Coalition here.

Find more information about Right to Energy Forum here.

Find the newest findings in R2E's report "Power to the people" here.

People of Skopje can give a sigh of relief that the winter is over. This city, being located in between the mountain ranges, becomes deadly valley during the wintertime. A blanket of smog settles over the valley because of the temperature inversions. Fresh air basically has no chance and neither do people living there. The concentration of poisonous particles named PM 2.5 in the air spikes to record heights and these small particles penetrate the respiratory system and bloodstream, and have been linked to premature deaths and various diseases.

"By breathing this air, we are slowly dying"

Tomislav Maksimovski, a Skopje resident

The fight against pollution in Skopje is hard given the fact that people actually have no other choice than to pollute the air during the winter. Because of the poor insulation of the pre-1990s Yugoslav-era buildings and the high costs of heating, people opt to use cheaper but non-eco friendly residential heating; burning wood or even plastic. Poverty in the region does not allow the inhabitants to afford the reconstruction of the residential buildings to ensure a better resistance during the winter months. Adding the passivity of the government to tackle the air pollution, people are becoming more and more frustrated. In regards to the gravity of the issue, a short movie called  Winter, Leave  was made by Contrast - Al Jazeera’s Immersive Storytelling Studio, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity. Have a look!


Find the full movie also here.

Find more information about the air pollution in Skopje here.

Habitat for Humanity contributed to the new UNECE Guidelines on the Management and Ownership of Condominium Housing thanks to being part of Real Estate Market Advisory Group.

UNECE Real Estate Market Advisory Group consists of specialists assisting the Committee on Housing and Land Management and the Working Party on Land Administration to develop stronger housing real estate markets. Its activities include discussion of energy efficient housing, affordable and social housing, its financing and others.

Being a member of this group, we were able to contribute to reviewing of original document of Guidelines on Condominium Ownership of Housing for Countries in Transition published in 2003. While this original guideline was mostly targeting the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, the new Guidelines on the Management and Ownership of Condominium Housing focuses on all the UNECE countries; including Western Europe, the United States and Canada. Successfully updated publication of guidelines was formally approved on October 4th, 2018 during the 79th session of the UNECE Committee on Housing and Land Management held in Geneva.

Throughout the last year, this small group of specialists was meeting regularly and discussed many challenges not only of Central and Eastern European region. HFHI  comments and messages touched exclusively the CEE and CIS countries based on our experience and expertise in this region. Thanks to our REELIH project and regional advocacy done in relation to it, we took this chance to push our messages and provided professional advice.

As the cornerstones for our claims we used three documents developed in regards to REELIH project and Visegrad Four project in Armenia done by HFH Armenia:

HOW TO IMPROVE RESIDENTIAL ENERGY EFFICIENCY IN SOUTH EASTERN EUROPE AND CIS:
POLICY DISCUSSION BRIEF FOR NATIONAL GOVERNMENTS AND INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS

ANALYSIS OF SUBSIDY SCHEMES AIMING TO SUPPORT ENERGY EFFICIENT RENOVATION OF MULTI-FAMILY BUILDINGS IN SELECTED COUNTRIES OF CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE:
LESSONS FOR ARMENIA AND BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA

LEGAL-REGULATORY SOLUTIONS FOR STRENGHTENING CIVIC INVOLVEMENT IN CONDOMINIUM MANAGEMENT IN ARMENIA:
UTILIZING THE KNOWLEDGE WEALTH FROM VISEGRAD STATES AND UKRAINE


 

Rapid rate of privatization of public housing, lack of maintenance and rising energy costs led to the emergence of low-income homeowners phenomenon and their inability to cope with the situation. Moreover, the collective decision-making of new homeowners brought other complications, that ended up with slow deterioration of multi-apartment buildings.

 

Hence, our main contributions to the updated condominium management guidelines included:


Find more information about condominium management guidelines here.

Find the press release about new publication here.

Besim Nebiu, Habitat for Humanity's REELIH program manager, attended an international conference in Barcelona on April 25, hosted by Housing Europe Spanish member, AVS along with the municipality of Barcelona, the Association of the Catalan social housing managers (GHS), and supported by Housing Europe. The event was focused on the renovation policies in Southern Europe, with the goal to bring together best practices in terms of funding for housing renovation and to discuss scalability potentials and transferability across borders.

Besim took part in the roundtable and debate Proactive Housing Renovation Policies Having a Social Impact and spoke about residential energy efficiency in Eastern Europe. Learn more about Habitat's mission in Eastern Europe in the video below:

 

The Buildings Performance Institute Europe (BPIE) published the analysis of the funding streams directed to energy efficiency in buildings in Central, Eastern and South-East Europe (CESEE).

The study shows which funds available in the region are allocated to upgrading the building stock. Both EU and non-EU funding streams were included in the analysis:

EU funding

Non-EU funding

The analysis revealed that less than 3% of the funds that could be used to support energy efficiency investments in the region is dedicated to upgrading buildings. Within EU funding streams, only 4.35% of the region’s Cohesion Policy Funds is allocated to demand side infrastructure, amounting to €3.96 Billion. The European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) has very little impact in the region, with only two energy projects active (including a gas project). The international financial institutions included in the analysis allocate only 1.7% of their total committed investments to demand-side infrastructure.

The study shows that, despite their critical role in reducing energy dependency, buildings are not perceived as a critical infrastructure and the opportunities for investments in demand-side infrastructure are not fully exploited. The current system fails to leverage sufficient private or institutional investment to upgrade the building stock.

The report addresses several challenges and suggests potential measures to overcome the lack of investments in demand-side infrastructure. According to BPIE, building technical capacity in the region is of utmost importance. BPIE suggests the creation of a regional energy efficiency financing platform that integrates capacity building, investment facilitation and project aggregation to create effective financing instruments and investment opportunities for demand-side energy efficiency. This would encourage private and institutional investment and result in a high investment leverage factor. Adopting an “efficiency-first” approach and promoting building renovation would be a viable alternative to increasing supply investments. Reducing uncertainty to spur private investments was also one of the challenges identified by BPIE, due to perceived high risks for investing in residential projects. That is why, stakeholder facilitation is one of the central aspects to our REELIH project, which you can learn more about here.

For this reason, BPIE suggests to set out comprehensive long-term national strategies for decarbonizing the building stock and guiding public and private investments, as well as to set up an independent non-political body, responsible for handling financial streams, in order to increase market confidence.

According to Oliver Rapf, Executive Director of BPIE, “The majority of buildings in the region urgently need deep renovation to reduce health and security risks, providing business opportunities and a stable return on investment. This debate becomes all the more relevant with the forthcoming negotiations on the next EU Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF). It should increase funding and support for demand-side efficiency investment and give up its bias for energy-supply infrastructure” (see BPIE press release here). BPIE proposes specific solutions that can be taken both at the EU and country level to increase the impact and reach of available funding for building renovation.

Written by Stuart Macdonald, a World Habitat trustee and Managing Director of PR agency See Media. See the original post here.
REELIH – Residential Energy Efficiency for Low Income Households is a project of Habitat for Humanity International and USAID.

We are in a quiet, windswept car park on a hill above Yerevan. The Soviet-era blocks of flats that surround us have impressive views down to the capital of Armenia below and west to Mount Ararat and Turkey.

An old man is painstakingly sweeping autumn leaves into a neat pile, when suddenly the peace is broken by a group of colourful women who burst around the corner of one of the blocks of flats.

Immediately our small group of World Habitat Awards judges is enveloped by enthusiastic chatter about the difference the REELIH energy-efficiency project has made to the lives of residents of these high-rise blocks.

‘We are so much warmer’, says one. ‘The difference is incredible’, says another. ‘Before there was wind blowing through the front door and now there is not – it is very simple!’

On the surface, REELIH – led by non-profit housing organisation Habitat for Humanity International with the support of USAID – means that some relatively simple refurbishment jobs are undertaken in old Soviet-era high-rise blocks. It ensures funds are in place through existing ‘homeowner associations’ for energy-efficiency works to communal areas to install new double-glazed windows and secure, air-tight front doors. REELIH has also started a programme of external insulation work to buildings that – despite the exposed nature of many of the homes and sub-zero winter temperatures – were built with little or no insulation in the 1960s to 1980s.

This work is crucially important in helping tackle the fuel poverty that affects many Yerevan households.  Around one-in-three are classed by the government as being in poverty. Yet the improvements are simply the final act in what has been a painstaking process to put in place the necessary funding.

So what is it about the REELIH project that caught the attention of the World Habitat Awards judges and saw it become a finalist in the 2017 Awards?

To my mind, it was because they are:

How does REELIH work?

REELIH helps groups of high-rise residents to use their existing ‘homeowner associations’ to access bank loans to contribute to the cost of energy-efficiency improvement works. The difference is then made up by a local government grant.

The concept is relatively simple, but it had never been done before in Armenia due to lender concerns about the creditworthiness of homeowner associations. Also, while local and national governments could see that citizens face an issue with poorly insulated homes and rising energy prices, the capital works bill to adequately address this is steep. The REELIH mixture of loan and grant funding addresses these issues.

How did it overcome the challenges?

Habitat for Humanity Armenia was so keen to demonstrate the potential of REELIH that it first ran a pilot where it lent money to a homeowner association in order to convince lenders to come on board. This was a gamble, but it worked, with the homeowner association repaying the loan from its service fees.

As a result, lender Inecobank became a REELIH partner alongside the Yerevan Municipal Authority – the latter investing up to 40% of the overall cost per high-rise block.

By the end of 2017, 30 Yerevan blocks had been refurbished at an average cost of just $5,000. The Municipality plans to work with REELIH, Inecobank and homeowner associations to complete works to a further 100 buildings.

What is the impact?

The outcome of all parties working together to strike a deal on REELIH is that fuel poverty is reduced among some of Yerevan’s most vulnerable people.

However, it has proven difficult to accurately measure the fuel bill savings due to people now heating their homes adequately, whereas before they were simply living with cold rooms.

As well as the Armenian government taking notice of the success of the REELIH model and looking to build on its success at a national level, other former Eastern Bloc countries are also learning more. Bosnia and Herzegovina and Macedonia are also implementing REELIH-based approaches.

While in Yerevan, our group of World Habitat Awards judges met residents of several high-rise blocks and at each one the message was the same: ‘REELIH has significantly improved our homes and lives’.

The first residents we met were right: REELIH is definitely worth making a noise about.

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