HUD, USDA reach accord on energy-efficiency standard for new construction

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) have settled on new energy-efficiency standards for the construction of new single-family and multifamily homes. This fulfills a requirement laid out in a 2007 law that directs the departments to adopt the most recently published energy-efficiency standards following reviews by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and HUD itself.

The “Adoption of Energy Efficiency Standards for New Construction of HUD- and USDA-Financed Housing” was published on Friday in the Federal Register, and will go into effect on May 28.

The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, signed into law by President George W. Bush that December, featured a statutory requirement directing HUD and USDA to “jointly adopt the most recently published energy efficiency standards for single family and multifamily homes, subject to an energy efficiency determination by the [DOE] and a cost-benefit housing ‘affordability and availability’ test by HUD,” according to an announcement from the Federal Housing Administration (FHA).

A preliminary determination was published by HUD and USDA in May 2023, based on energy-efficiency standards developed by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) and the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC).

These standards will “lower energy costs for owners of newly-constructed homes, benefitting homeowners, FHA, and communities,” the announcement stated. “HUD expects this to be particularly beneficial for low-income and rural homeowners who typically face disproportionately high energy cost burdens.”

The implementation timeline varies based on the type and location of new construction. For FHA-sponsored single-family homes, new construction must comply with the 2021 IECC if building permit applications are submitted 18 months or later following the May 28 effective date.

For new construction in persistent rural poverty areas, as defined by the USDA Economic Research Service, compliance with the 2021 IECC will be required 24 months after the May 28 effective date. Within the next month, USDA will “publish a map of rural areas covered by this extension no later than 30 days after the effective date of this notice.”

FHA will also publish a mortgagee letter with additional implementation details for its single-family programs sometime prior to the May 28 effective date.

This announcement in the latest in a series of actions HUD has announced in pursuit of greater climate resiliency. On Thursday, HUD detailed a slew of actions and initiatives it has undertaken to bolster climate resiliency while supporting green housing initiatives that stem from Inflation Reduction Act funding. It also recently announced plans to combat the effects of extreme heat.

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