Housing and energy are the core of environmental justice. The housing in low-income communities -- defined as an area in which 23.59 percent or more of the population lives at or below the poverty line -- is frequently older and energy inefficient. In turn, poor households not only pay disproportionately large amounts of their income on energy but also struggle to maintain a healthy environment in their home. Landlords generally don’t have adequate incentives to improve the energy efficiency of their properties, which slows progress toward improving the quality of affordable housing and providing access to other clean energy solutions like rooftop solar. For renters, Black, Native American, and Latinx households are more likely than White households to be impacted by these poor housing conditions.

The Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia SIPA hosted a discussion on energy and environmental justice in the context of urban housing and energy efficiency retrofits to improve performance and livability.


  • Richard Kauffman, Adjunct Senior Research Scholar, Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia SIPA


  • Ariel Drehobl, Local Policy Manager, Energy Equity, American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy
  • Sage Green, Technical Project Officer on the State Energy Planning team in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at the US Department of Energy 
  • John Washington, People’s Action #HomesGuarantee Organizer