Massachusetts initiative assists affordable housing adoption of solar

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The Massachusetts Solar Technical Assistance Retrofit (STAR) program provides technical and financial assistance for affordable housing organizations to adopt solar.

Researching the complex financial and technical aspects of solar projects for numerous multi-unit buildings can be a heavy lift for an already stretched housing agency staff. The program seeks to address this issue by acting as a guiding force through the decision-making process.

The program, administered by Boston branch of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), Resonant Energy, and the Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporations (MACDC), has analyzed the portfolios of 44 affordable housing providers, encompassing more than 1,700 buildings.

Through its first three phases, affordable housing providers have installed or committed to a cumulative 7.9 MW of solar across nearly 200 rooftops. The projects represent more than $30 million in lifetime savings for the housing owners and reduce carbon emissions equivalent to taking 1,400 cars off the road.

Madison Park housing authority has 580 kW of solar over 17 rooftops. Image: Resonant Energy

One of the major hurdles in developing solar for housing authorities is the review and consent process with leaders and investors. STAR organizers worked directly with these parties, providing staff time and guidance to streamline the process.

“Without the expert assistance and flexible financing options through the STAR program, a shift of this magnitude would have been extremely difficult for us,” said Rafael Mares, executive director of The Neighborhood Developers (TND).

The STAR program supports housing providers in filing for tax credits created by the Inflation Reduction Act. Last fall, Resonant Energy helped clients submit 102 applications to the Department of Energy, representing $7.4 million in tax credit support if all are approved. Resonant Energy report that thus far, 68 of the 102 applications have been approved.

“2024 stands to be a watershed moment for solar and affordable housing,” said Isaac Baker, co-chief executive officer of Resonant Energy. “New state and federal resources are being rolled out that prioritize solar for affordable housing, making it easier for housing organizations to afford the upfront cost of solar and unlock meaningful savings for both the buildings’ and residents’ budgets.”

Statewide, Massachusetts applied for $250 million in funding from the Environmental Protection Agency’s $7 billion Solar For All program. About $65 million of the total is earmarked for affordable housing communities.

The EPA is expected to announce award decisions in March 2024. If the state is awarded, agencies will implement the funds in the following months.

The STAR program is financially supported from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center’s (MassCEC) EmPower Massachusetts Program, the Jampart Charitable Trust, and the Lauenstein Family Fund.

Phase four participating organizations included:

● Cambridge Housing Authority (CHA)
● Commonwealth Land Trust (CLT)
● HallKeen Management
● Harborlight Homes
● Mission Hill Neighborhood Housing Services (MHNHS)
● Peabody Properties
● Preservation of Affordable Housing (POAH)
● Rural Development, Inc. (RDI)
● Supportive Living, Inc.
● Urban Edge
● Valley Community Development
● Way Finders

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