Across the nation, low-income, households of color, multifamily, and renting households spend a much larger percentage of their income on energy bills than the average family. Low-income households (often residing in older buildings with inefficient appliances, heating, and ventilations) spend an average of 7.2% of their income on utility bills. This is more than triple the 2.3% spent on utilities by higher-income households. According to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, Cincinnati ranked eighth among 48 major cities in the country for highest low-income energy burden, sixth for renting households, and fifth among African-American households.
The city of Cincinnati’s Green Cincinnati Plan (GCP) sought to help create a more sustainable, resilient, equitable future.
Project Summary :
Over the years and through leadership from nonprofits, businesses, City officials, and residents, Cincinnati has achieved and sustained progress in improving its built environment. For example, Cincinnati has one of the country’s most progressive programs to incentivize green building, including a 15-year LEED property tax abatement. Such policies have assisted the development of nearly 1,250 LEED projects in the region, and led to the construction of the nation’s first net zero energy police station. But whether it’s improving access to energy efficiency financing for low-income households or targeting multi-family properties for improvements, the City’s current efforts are directed to the most vulnerable and in-need populations.
The initiative was set in motion through The Green Cincinnati Plan (GCP)- a playbook to build a more sustainable, resilient, equitable city. Weather changes in the region – major storm events, heat emergencies, increase in pest populations – are felt most heavily by disadvantaged households. As the Net Zero Urban Village proves, the strategies to fight climate change and the tools to combat poverty are interconnected. With this in mind – whether it’s improving transit and access to jobs, or bolstering the production of locally grown healthy foods and improving public health – the City of Cincinnati wants to ensure that as emissions go down, quality of life goes up.
The 2018 update of GCP was led by a diverse Steering Committee of leaders charged with ensuring an inclusive process for the Plan that would emphasize sustainability, resilience, and equity as components of any recommendations.
The City hosted a kickoff meeting at the Cincinnati Zoo and over 250 residents participated. This event set the tone for the next five years of action.
Beyond ensuring that energy efficiency efforts were delivered to the most in-need populations, there were efforts to tackle issues such as food security, childhood asthma, climate refugees, transit access and neighborhood walkability in low-income neighborhoods, and environmental justice efforts in communities disproportionately burden by pollution and hazardous wastes.
Champions from regional institutions were appointed by the community to represent the eight issue areas identified by the Steering Committee (for example, the Natural Systems team is led by the executive director of a local watershed council). These local leaders volunteered their time and expertise, and under their direction each team held four public input meetings over the course of six months.
Three separate meetings were hosted for Spanish-speaking communities to ensure language wouldn’t be a barrier. Overall, hundreds of residents participated in over 30 meetings and contributed 1,400 recommendations for sustainable action.
The focus on equity and engagement continues as the draft GCP is being shared with residents in the most vulnerable neighborhoods who are providing feedback and comments before the document goes to the Steering Committee and City Council.
The City set a goal to decrease household energy burden by 10% over five years and ensure that 100% of residents have convenient access to healthy, affordable foods. Another goal is to decrease childhood asthma-related hospital admissions in target neighborhoods by 50% in five years.
Local groups are rallying to the cause:
The Green Cincinnati Plan Website
City of Cincinnati, Office of Environment & Sustainability
801 Plum Street; Suite 130
Cincinnati, Ohio 45202