Fact Sheet

General Public Housing Facts

  • There are over 1.1 million public housing units nationwide, housing more than 2.1 million low-income people.
  • Fifty-two percent of public housing households are headed by an elderly and/or disabled person; 42% of households have at least one child.
  • Seventy-one percent of households are considered extremely low-income, earning below 30% of area median income.
  • The average annual income for 2008 was $13,098.

PHA Costs & Energy Consumption 

  • Ninety-five percent of public housing was built before 1986 - 57% of the total portfolio was built before 1970.
  • It cost public housing agencies $6.4 billion to operate in 2008.
  • PHAs have an estimated $32 billion backlog of capital needs.
  • PHAs spent nearly $1.5 billion in direct utility payments in 2008 – up from $1.2 billion in 2001.
  • In 2007, PHAs provided $421 million in utility allowances, averaging $917.
  • Utility costs, including estimated utility allowances, represented over 30% of 2008 public housing operating expenses.
  • Reducing public housing energy costs by 10% could save nearly $200 million per year in operating expenses.
  • According to a recent study commissioned by HUD, public housing is, on average, less energy efficient on a per-square-foot basis than all other U.S. residential households.
  • Energy usage among similar public housing buildings varies considerably, illustrating the potential for substantial energy savings.

Impact of Energy Costs on Low-Income Families


  • The Home Energy Affordability Gap – the difference between what low-income households can afford to pay for home energy costs and what they actually pay – increased from $23 billion in 2002 to $41 billion in 2007.
  • Available assistance through the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program increased only $279 million from 2002-2007 – representing only a 10% increase.
  • In 2008, 60% of low-income households reported more difficulty paying their energy bills than in the previous year.

Energy Performance Contracting


  • Energy Performance Contracts (EPC) allow a PHA to seek private investment for Energy Conservation Measures (ECM); a portion of the savings from reduced energy consumption are used to pay back investors.
  • As of March 2008, PHAs had entered into a total of 183 EPCs since 1992.
  • The total investment in ECMs by PHAs through EPCs is $564 million, with annual savings of $103 million.


  • Applicants receive additional points in the annual grant competition if they incorporate green building aspects into their applications.
  • Sixty of the 63 applicants from 2005-07 received points for energy efficiency measures.
  • All grant recipients in 2006 and 2007 plan to incorporate energy efficiency measures into their redeveloped housing.
  • A recent HUD survey of 49 HOPE VI sites showed that 73% of the surveyed recipients included Energy Star products.
  • Energy consumption at HOPE VI sites is estimated to be 17 percent below other public housing properties – those with Energy Star products lowered consumption to 25 percent below other properties.

Innovative Work on Greening


  • The Seattle Housing Authority found that technologies incorporated into the High Point development reduce consumption of electricity by 40% and water by 54% when compared to similar units in other Seattle public housing.
  • The Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority (Cleveland) has realized annual savings in excess of $4 million from an EPC to add a green roof, update furnaces, install windows and energy efficient lighting and integrate water conservation devices.
  • Boston’s Maverick Landing Development is the first LEED-certified affordable housing neighborhood, employing transit-oriented development, renewable energy production, and healthy homes design.