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Senator Shaheen advocates for energy-efficient building codes to lower New Hampshire housing costs

Senator Shaheen advocates for energy-efficient building codes to lower New Hampshire housing costs

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., speaks during a hearing of the Senate Appropriations Committee on President Biden's supplemental funding request for Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2023, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

By Colin Booth

March 20, 2024

Senator Jeanne Shaheen today sent a letter to the Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), calling for new energy efficiency rules to make housing more affordable for New Hampshire residents.

By updating energy efficiency building codes to match those already in place by other federal agencies, Shaheen writes in the letter that homeowners and renters could see significantly lower energy bills, with an estimated annual saving of $750 per family. 

These savings are seen as offsetting the initial increase in construction costs by about 2 percent. Additionally, the letter cites Freddie Mac research indicating that energy efficiency improvements might reduce risk for mortgage backers and improve resale values.

In the letter, Shaheen argues the benefits exceed traditional savings on housing costs.

“Beyond these potential monetary benefits, requiring updated building codes helps save lives by improving indoor air quality and protecting families from extreme weather events. Improved energy codes address climate risks through lower energy usage and better insulation keeping residents safe during extreme heat and cold events,” the senator wrote in the letter.

In a poll conducted in August 2023, 27% of respondents listed the cost of housing as their number one concern among issues facing the state, followed by cost of living at 13%.

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The senator’s request comes at a time when the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law has allocated $1 billion to assist state and local governments in updating their building codes.

Shaheen proposes a grace period for homes already under construction to ease the transition to new standards, underscoring the urgency for the FHFA to adopt these changes to support more affordable, energy-efficient housing options for New Hampshire residents and beyond.

Legislation currently pending in the New Hampshire legislature would update New Hampshire’s building codes, but those bills do not include a move toward the latest energy codes. As a result, the $4 million Shaheen helped secure could be left on the table in New Hampshire and Granite State residents could miss out on saving more than $500 per year on utility bills.

For single-family homes, the average additional cost of complying with the 2021 HUD building code is estimated at $5,500 per unit, which translates to net average savings of $500 per year for homeowners due to energy cost reductions. For multifamily housing, the added construction cost is just $18 per unit, with life-cycle cost savings estimated at approximately $6,000 per unit​.

You can read Senator Shaheen’s letter here.

Author

  • Colin Booth

    Based in Epsom, Colin Booth is Granite Post's political correspondent. A Granite State native and veteran political professional with a deep background in journalism, he's worked on campaigns and programs in battleground states across the country, ranging from New Hampshire, Texas, Pennsylvania and Washington D.C.

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