Energy efficiency: a solution for low-income families?

Energy reforms and energy savings have been buzzwords over the past few years. One hears them on TV and reads them in newspapers. Why are these things important all of a sudden?

Grey multi-apartment silhouettes dominate city skylines throughout Eastern Europe and Central Asia. These are houses built under a centrally planned economy to accommodate an incoming workforce. Today, many lack basic services and are falling apart.

They have not been renovated since the transition to a market economy two decades ago. Experts claim that residential heating accounts for 30 percent of the energy loss, as previous construction methods did not focus on savings. Highly wasteful consumption intensifies the impact of rising utility prices on low income households.

Winters in Europe and Central Asia can be extremely cold. Rotten wooden windows allow 80 percent of the heat to escape. Families use “dirty” fuels and cheap stoves to heat their flats. It increases pollution, endangers safety and affects the health of the residents.

Tough choices
Residents on low incomes suffer the most from such problems. Imagine your wife and two children living in one of these old apartments. You work eight hours a day and get only a minimal wage. Your children need food, clothes and books for school. You can hardly pay the monthly bills for water and energy. What is your priority, buying food or replacing old windows?

Habitat for Humanity has been working to support such families. It has developed loans and construction advisory services to help them renovate common areas in the buildings and replace the windows in the apartments.

Can it work?
The biggest advantage of these loans is that the repaid money returns into a fund to provide capital for more families and tenant associations to renovate apartments and upgrade energy features.

It is important to address energy efficiency in the region as it solves some of the biggest housing problems and moves countries on the road to energy reforms. However, above all, it supports low income families in renovating their apartments and improving living conditions.

What is next?
Habitat wants people not only to read about poverty housing but to do something to fight it. You can support our work in Europe and Central Asia in a number of ways:

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