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Energy Efficiency as a Tool for Preservation of Affordable Rental Housing: Evaluation of the Efficiency Emphasis in the MacArthur Foundation’s Window of Opportunity Initiative

December 7, 2018

Note: This evaluation is accompanied by a blog post by the RAND Corporation about the initiative. Access these related materials here: the late 1990s, there was growing concern that the significant portion of subsidized rental homes that were coming to the end of their initial subsidy period would not obtain renewed subsidy and that the amount of affordable rental housing for low and middle-income families in metropolitan areas would fall to even lower numbers. Responding to this escalating concern, the MacArthur Foundation identified preservation of the existing stock of affordable multifamily rental housing as a pressing need. Consequently, the Foundation launched the Window of Opportunity: Preservation of Affordable Rental Housing initiative in 2000. The initiative would expand to become a 20-year effort, during which the Foundation awarded $214 million in grants and loans to a wide range of organizations including non-profit owners of affordable rental housing, state governments, researchers, financial institutions, industry associations, and advocates.By 2011, the Foundation and its Window of Opportunity borrowers and grantees had increasingly recognized that energy costs of multifamily rental properties could be better controlled. To this end, the Foundation opted to extend Window of Opportunity with an explicit focus on increasing the energy efficiency of subsidized and unsubsidized multifamily affordable housing. Between 2012-2015, the Foundation awarded $27.5 million through 39 grants or loans as a part of what we term the Window of Opportunity - Energy Efficiency. The loans were Program-Related Investments, which were low-interest loans to create new business models or grow mission-oriented businesses. The Window of Opportunity - Energy Efficiency activities comprised a little over 10 percent of the overall $214 million Window of Opportunity initiative.