Building power for housing and environmental justice

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L-R: Jesse Williams, Carolyn Szczepanski, Janiece Watts, Lee Lucas, Mitra Jalali Nelson, Ben Passer

Environmental justice work is by nature intersectional: when we talk about access and equity to clean energy solutions, we also need to look at the many issues facing our communities. As advocates work on the affordable housing crisis in the Twin Cities, Fresh Energy is asking how we can build power with people most impacted for solutions that address both access to safe and affordable housing (especially for renters) and energy equity.

Last Friday, with our partners at The Alliance and the Community Stabilization Project (CSP), Ben Passer and I participated in the first event of the Actualizing Equity 2019 series titled Igniting Renter Power for Energy Efficiency and Environmental Justice, organized by The Alliance. As part of our ongoing work on the Saint Paul Tenant-Landlord Energy Project, Community Stabilization Project and Fresh Energy are working to build a network of renters, landlords, and critical partners to advance policies and provide education on energy-related issues. Our goal? To do this work in a way that demonstrates collaboratively developed solutions.

At the roundtable event which included audience breakout sessions, we shared how we’re working across organizations and missions to mobilize our community and advance shared goals— while also highlighting how housing and environmental justice intersect in our movements. The breakout topics included a deep dive into the Saint Paul Tenant-Landlord Energy Toolkit, a guide of energy efficiency programs created by Community Stabilization Project and Fresh Energy. Our director of Energy Access and Equity, Ben Passer, led a group in a discussion of current energy efficiency resources available in Saint Paul, while separately, City of Saint Paul councilmembers Mitra Jalali Nelson of Ward 4 and Jane Prince of Ward 7 discussed specific City of Saint Paul policies. Lee Lucas of CSP, who is a Saint Paul renter, led a discussion with local landlord Jesse Williams on how residents and landlords can work together to combat rising housing costs and displacement.

These were deep and rich discussions that illustrated how vital it is to have nuanced conversations about issues that are wide-ranging and impact all of us in many ways. Thank you to our partners in this work: Community Stabilization Project, Councilmember Mitra Jalali Nelson of Ward 4, and Carolyn Szczepanski from the Alliance!