Drafty, inefficient homes in need of weatherization will soon have a new affordable program available to them with the launch of the Weatherization Repayment Assistance Program (WRAP). The program, funded by $9 million from the state and overseen by the Vermont Housing Finance Agency (VHFA), will use an innovative on-bill payment model to help moderate-income Vermonters participate in comprehensive home energy projects.
WRAP will allow Vermont households to pay for qualifying weatherization projects like insulation and air sealing as well as heat pumps and advanced wood heating systems through a monthly charge on their utility bill that can be paid back over time.
Both homeowners and renters can participate in the program.
“Weatherization continues to be a cornerstone of our efforts to improve the energy efficiency of Vermont homes and cut greenhouse gas emissions,” said Governor Scott. “It truly is a win-win, reducing costs for Vermonters and helping our planet. This program will help more families benefit from a warmer, more comfortable home and lower heating bills.”
Although the program is open to Vermonters of all incomes, the majority of program funding will be targeted to households earning between 80% to 120% of the area median income. Households earning 80% AMI or less are eligible for free services through the state’s existing Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP).
“Vermont’s strategy to meet its climate goals must have an equity focus, including prioritizing low- and moderate-income households,” remarked VHFA Executive Director Maura Collins. “These households tend to live in older homes and have higher energy burdens. Weatherization projects are an important part of making Vermont homes more affordable.”
VHFA is a non-profit agency created in 1974 by the Vermont Legislature to finance and promote affordable housing opportunities for low- and moderate-income Vermonters. Since its inception, the Agency has helped approximately 30,000 Vermont households with affordable mortgages and financed the development of approximately 8,800 affordable rental apartments.
WRAP’s on-bill payment mechanism intends to address challenges commonly encountered in weatherization, including high upfront costs and limited access to credit. WRAP will not run credit checks on customers, instead verifying a clean utility bill payment history. If a customer moves, the next occupant of the property will pay the surcharge for the time they occupy the property and experience the benefits of the measures.
“VGS is focused on making energy efficiency as accessible and affordable as possible,” said Neale Lunderville, President & CEO of Vermont Gas Systems (VGS). “On-bill financing for low- and moderate-income Vermonters is key to ensuring a just transition. As we take bold steps to support Vermont’s climate goals, we are committed to helping customers who historically have been unable to afford comprehensive efficiency improvements access the benefits of home weatherization.”
“By making financing more accessible, this program will help more Vermonters reap the benefit of weatherization,” said Peter Walke, managing director of Efficiency Vermont. “Contractor-led air sealing and insulation makes homes healthier and more comfortable, and many families save hundreds of dollars a year after completing a project.”
WRAP will be offered through VGS, Efficiency Vermont, and BED, who will connect customers with approved contractors and energy rebates. Trained professionals will perform energy audits and recommend weatherization projects to customers. VHFA will provide capital and incentives for the remaining upfront costs of the project using state funding. After work is completed, the WRAP charge will be added as a separate line item on the customer’s utility bill by their gas or electricity provider. So far, Green Mountain Power, Ludlow Electric, Vermont Electric Cooperative, VGS, and Burlington Electric Department have planned to offer the program to their customers.
“VEC is excited to be a WRAP partner. We are committed to working with co-op members interested in using this program’s financial tools to make their homes more comfortable and energy efficient. We encourage VEC members to explore this opportunity,” said Lisa Morris, Vermont Electric Cooperative energy services analyst.
“VPPSA is thrilled that Ludlow Electric Light Department customers will be able to participate in WRAP. Heating our homes and buildings is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in our state, and weatherization is an effective way to reduce carbon pollution. To further help out the Ludlow community, we’re also offering an $800 incentive to low- and moderate-income households that install a heat pump. The combination of weatherization and heating electrification can go a long way in helping Vermonters save money while protecting our planet,” said Julia Leopold, Vermont Public Power Supply Authority (VPPSA) director of public affairs, who represents municipal electric utilities, including Ludlow Electric.
VHFA anticipates that WRAP will begin funding projects early next year.
For more information visit: vgsvt.com/weatherization-repayment-assistance-program or Efficiency Vermont at 1-888-921-5990.