Habitat for Humanity and USAID Residential Energy Efficiency for Low Income Houselholds (REELIH) project aims to improve living standards in multi-unit apartment buildings in Eurasia (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Armenia, Macedonia) via a cross-sectoral cooperation. It focuses on developing a regional effort, resources and networks to address the impact of rising energy prices on collective housing. The REELIH project includes the involvement of all stakeholders who promote, create, finance and directly implement energy efficiency projects. The project supports the homeowners to mobilise and act as homeowner associations to collectively manage their buildings.
Residential heating energy accounts for more than 30 percent of energy use in most countries of Europe and Central Asia, and even more than 40 percent in the Balkans. Previous construction and heating methods did not focus on saving energy and the environment. As a result, a highly inefficient energy use intensifies the impact of escalating energy prices on low-income households. Energy poverty is a severe form of poverty housing. High energy bills are caused by high energy prices, bad insulation of buildings, but also bad consumption habits and outdated equipment.
Especially in urban areas, the pre-fabricated multi-story apartment buildings are generally poorly insulated and maintained, providing a low level of energy efficiency and living comfort. Current construction standards and practices for these residential buildings lag behind international standards and are not effectively applied in building and in the refurbishment of old buildings.
The main objectives are:
More than 3800 individuals now live in more comfortable and efficient housing across the three countries. Retrofitting has cut energy bills for low income homeowners by up to 50%, helping to reduce poverty and tackle rising energy costs. The project has led several local governments to provide subsidies for energy efficiency interventions. In Armenia, the municipality of Yerevan has provided a 40% subsidy for all energy efficiency interventions trough the project. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Tuzla Canton local government has produced a five-year plan focusing on energy use in residential buildings. It is the first of its kind in the country and will support large scale investments in residential energy efficiency. In addition, Habitat for Humanity is currently working on reforming of homeowner association laws in all three countries.
The REELIH project with the financial help of USAID seeks to demonstrate that integrated efforts in this sector, at the regional as well as the national level, addressing market, capacity and knowledge gaps, will bring significant improvements to the living conditions of low-income families in the Eurasian region, reduce energy costs, reduce carbon emissions, and thus overall, contribute with tangible changes to the ongoing dialogue and reform process. Habitat for Humanity carries out work in each country to develop financial models so the improvements can be funded. One of the ways that is achieved is through mediation carried out between residents, the public and the private sector. This has helped increase the funding available for this type of work and has made it easier for people from different backgrounds and institutions to work together to achieve improvements for the wider community.
The step by step model proved to be very successful because it is very affordable for the tenants, as well as the condominiums. The small scale interventions require much less time, knowledge, resources, and effort from condominiums’ part in comparison to the full insulation works.