Opening Up the Promise of the Green Economy Beyond the GDZ
In 2012, PUSH Buffalo founded PUSH Green, a non-profit weatherization program whose goal is to expand the demand for energy-efficient housing upgrades across Erie County while bolstering employment opportunities in the green jobs field. PUSH Green is now the local implementing agency for New York State’s path-breaking 2009 Green Jobs – Green New York (GJGNY) law.
Since its founding PUSH Green has brought energy efficiency and weatherization upgrades to homeowners across Erie County (including homes on the West Side who might have been shut out of the weatherization program because of timing, geography, or income). To date, 105 residential retrofits through Green Jobs Green New York have been contracted and approved by NYSERDA. 323 audits have been completed, and 591 applications have been opened.
Many of these homes are participants in the Friends and Neighbors Program, described below. To date we have had 31 Friends and Neighbors bundles.
In addition, PUSH Green used Green and Healthy Homes Initiative (GHHI funding) to match NYSERDA partial grants, creating free energy efficiency work for low-moderate income homeowners in the City of Buffalo. We call the program “PUSH Green + Healthy Homes, and we have referred over 120 homes into that particular program since March 2013.
Through PUSH Green, PUSH Buffalo will translate its experience organizing contractor and job training networks in the Green Development Zone to specific neighborhoods across Erie County. In the process it will also expand job seekers and trainees access to green jobs pipelines.
GJGNY was designed to encourage property owners to invest in energy-efficient upgrades to their homes, to increase the retrofit business, and to encourage contractors to hire and train workers, especially from the state’s most neglected communities, such as Buffalo’s West Side.
Statewide, the goal of GJGNY is to create more than 30,000 jobs and to support upgrades in one million homes.
To do this, community-based organizations, like PUSH Green, has taken the lead in bringing homeowners, contractors, and workers together in its Friends and Neighbors Program.
To support property owners’ efforts to upgrade their homes, PUSH Green acts as a energy-efficiency advocate, assessing owners’ individual needs and bundling together multiple projects in given areas.
PUSH Green then works with local contractors to assign each job through an aggregation process. This process brings the cost of the work down significantly, both for the contractors and the homeowners.
PUSH Green also helps homeowners pay for the work, involving them in GJGNY’s innovative financial program for green housing upgrades. Under this program, property owners are able to access low-interest loans that they can pay back right on their energy bill. Their monthly payments does not exceed the energy savings they make from the upgrade.
PUSH Green also works with local contractors, building upon PUSH Buffalo’s experience in the Green Development Zone organizing high-road local contractor networks. As PUSH Green generates new business for the contractors, it helps them identify promising employment prospects, especially focusing on residents of high-unemployment areas like the West Side of Buffalo. It also ties contracts to high-road commitments to pay family-supporting wages and benefits and to providing training for workers.
Finally, PUSH Green helps job seekers find opportunities with these high-road employers in this expanding sector of the economy. Since launching in January 2012, PUSH Green has connected 76 local residents to green job training opportunities, and placed 20 workers into green jobs with the contractors working under GJGNY or related clean energy programs.
By creating this “win-win-win situation,” PUSH hopes to translate its experiences in the Green Development Zone into a model that is replicable nationwide, thus making a reality of the pioneering vision of the Green and Healthy Homes Initiative, which was first articulated in Baltimore and has since become central to movements across the country promoting green jobs and sustainable communities.