NEW YORK — Living Cities, a philanthropic collaborative of 22 of the world’s largest foundations and financial institutions, announced the release of a study analyzing whole building utility usage databases for the nation’s multifamily housing stock. The report, Multifamily Utility Usage Data: Issues and Opportunities, surveys databases operated by federal, private, and mission-oriented organizations and estimates that these databases capture only 2-3 percent of all of the multifamily units nationwide. According to Living Cities, the lack of large and robust data sets, a common data taxonomy, and accepted industry standards for data collection inhibits meaningful benchmarking of multifamily properties, the identification of appropriate energy conservation measures, and the development of large scale retrofit financing programs.

The study was conducted by Recap Real Estate Advisors, a provider of financial and advisory services for multifamily rental housing, with funding support from Living Cities and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

“There are some very significant data collection efforts underway, as well as some very promising new tools for analyzing this data,” said Todd Trehubenko, chief executive officer of Recap Real Estate Advisors. “However, there are no common standards and most owners, utilities, lenders, and regulators are not required to collect or report information about the amount of energy and water that their properties use. There is tremendous missed opportunity to obtain the information necessary for policy makers, energy experts, and capital providers to create powerful new strategies to reduce consumption and costs.”

According to Living Cities, the savings opportunities are significant as more than 34 million Americans live in multifamily rental housing and the great majority of these buildings were built prior to the adoption of state-wide energy codes beginning in the early 1980s.

“This report demonstrates the need for more data collection, not simply for the sake of having more data, but to provide information that is useful in helping to move the industry forward,” said Ben Hecht, president and CEO of Living Cities. “This type of data would be helpful to lenders as part of their underwriting processes and helpful to owners as they are making critical decisions about efficiency plans. It would help to bring about a major change in the way that business is done as it relates to housing energy efficiency.”

“Across the country, a growing number of multifamily property owners are making energy efficiency improvements that help preserve and enhance housing affordability for millions of low-income renters,” said Julia Stasch, vice president of U.S. Programs at the MacArthur Foundation. “With more than a third of all renters, or 17 million households currently spending more than 30 percent of their income on rent and utilities, the value of these energy efficiency improvements has never been greater. But, as this new report makes clear, more and better data is essential if we want to make real progress toward the twin goals of increased housing affordability and decreased energy consumption.”

The report, Multifamily Utility Usage Data: Issues and Opportunities, is available at

Publication date:08/08/2011