Energy Efficiency, Affordable Housing, & Jobs: Op-Ed from Erie, PA

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Better Living Through Energy Efficiency

Donald Crenshaw, GMA Development Group


I am a proud member of the Erie community and I am always looking for ways to create greater opportunity and equity for my fellow community members. That is why I advocate for two important elements that I believe will get us there: affordable housing and jobs.

And in all my years as a contractor, I have found a major link between the two – energy efficiency.


“[T]hrough ultra-energy efficient technology, such as six-inch thick interior walls,

specialty windows and solar panels, residents’ energy consumption will be next to nothing.”


In fact, a recent analysis conducted by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) found that lifting a cap on energy efficiency investment in Pennsylvania could create 30,000 jobs and save families and businesses billions of dollars in energy costs. This is a policy change that just makes good sense. 

Think about it: a significant part of affordable housing is keeping energy costs down. Families can keep these costs down by making sure their living space includes energy efficient technology and appliances, such as LED lighting and proper insulation. And these energy efficient projects spur economic stimuli and investments in local economies by creating good-paying, local jobs in communities across Pennsylvania, including right here in Erie. 

The most recent project in Erie that I developed ⏤ Parade Street Commons East  ⏤ speaks truth to this link between affordable housing and jobs. This project comprises 40 affordable housing units and a community center that meets energy efficient passive house standards. This means that through ultra-energy efficient technology, such as six-inch thick interior walls, specialty windows and solar panels, residents’ energy consumption will be next to nothing. 

Not only are we creating some of the most environmentally friendly affordable housing for Erie residents, we’re also putting local residents to work. This development has employed over 50 individuals representing various trades. 

Additionally, a great deal of these local workers were new to the trade. Through the apprenticeship program at Greater Erie Community Action Committee and Career Link, locals who showed a genuine interest in the craft and committed to show up every day ready to work were given a job no matter their skill level or background. In fact, some of the gentlemen we mentored and hired were formally incarcerated. These workers were part of a reentry program and are living on their own. The common trait with each worker on the Parade Street Commons East project was their desire to be trained and gainfully employed. 

Providing training for those overlooked and housing to those underserved, is why I do this. 

And not only is energy efficiency creating jobs right here in Erie, but statewide, more than 68,000 Pennsylvanians are employed in family-sustaining, local energy efficient jobs. We can create even more of these jobs, both by promoting energy efficiency education in our local communities and advocating for strong policy at the state level. For example, bipartisan legislation in the state legislature could allow organizations across Pennsylvania to increase energy efficiency targets and projects. This legislation, Senate Bill 232 and companion House Bill 193, would remove the caps on efficiency spending included in Act 129 as studied by ACEEE. 

I have seen firsthand how energy efficiency technology improves the lives of Erie residents. I applaud our local state Senator Dan Laughlin for supporting more energy efficiency investment by cosponsoring Senate Bill 232, and I urge all our state legislators to pursue a range of policies that allow the continued expansion of these programs. 

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