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Manufactured homes are among the few affordable housing options for many low-income Minnesotans, but they can be notoriously drafty and expensive to heat and cool, placing significant energy burdens on many residents.
A public-private partnership is reporting progress with initiative to lower that burden by connecting manufactured home communities with local utility programs and weatherization contractors paid by federal dollars.
The Clean Energy Resource Teams has a goal of reducing the energy burden of all Minnesotans to less than 5% of their income. For the past four years, it’s made a special effort to target manufactured home communities, where around half of residents earn less than $35,000 per year.
“There’s a real opportunity to reduce their energy burden,” said Joel Haskard, co-director of Clean Energy Resources Teams, a collaboration involving the University of Minnesota’s Extension Service, Great Plains Institute, Southwest Regional Development Commission, and Minnesota Department of Commerce.
More than 180,000 Minnesotans live in manufactured homes, some of which were designed for southern climates and have little insulation to protect against the rigors of the state’s harsh winters.
A Minnesota Commerce Department report published in 2016 said half of the residents in the communities are eligible for low-income weatherization. More than 40% use electric heaters in winter for heating. Faced with a challenging energy burden, two-thirds of residents are open to energy-efficient measures, but a third said financial constraints could hold them back.
Clean Energy Resource Teams received three grants of $25,000 each to focus on manufactured home communities over the last four years. Although small, the grants allowed the organization to conduct pilot projects in the communities to determine what outreach works. The most recent program reached 22 communities.
Despite the outreach, obstacles remain. The staff prints energy information in several languages, but not all residents understand the benefits of a more efficient home. Nor do all residents want to take government or nonprofit assistance to …