Low hanging fruit? Regulations and energy efficiency in subsidized multifamily housing

Vincent J. Reina, Constantine Kontokosta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The U.S. government has invested in multifamily housing through an array of subsidized housing programs. These programs provide a venue for understanding how regulations governing multifamily housing can affect an owner's incentive to make energy efficient investments, and a tenant's desire to reduce their energy consumption levels. This paper empirically tests the impact of subsidized housing regulations on the energy efficiency of multi-family housing for low-income households. We begin by constructing a unique database that integrates actual energy use with physical, socioeconomic, and regulatory characteristics of all large multifamily properties in New York City, focusing on whether a property receives a federal rental subsidy. We employ multivariate regression models to examine the factors that influence energy consumption in multi-family buildings and compare subsidized housing to market-rate housing, controlling for a range of building and household characteristics. We find that subsidized properties are associated with higher energy consumption than similar market-rate properties and, of the subsidized housing programs, Public Housing tends to consume the most energy. Our results suggest that despite the potential for retrofitting multifamily properties, and associated cost, energy, and carbon emissions savings, regulatory factors constrain investment and consumption decisions in the case of subsidized properties. Reducing energy use in subsidized housing, therefore, rests on modifying existing regulations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)505-513
Number of pages9
JournalEnergy Policy
StatePublished - 2017


  • Energy efficiency
  • Metering
  • Regulations
  • Split incentive
  • Subsidized housing
  • Utility consumption

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Energy
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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