U.S. Weatherization Assistance Program
FAS has authored a paper on the U.S. Weatherization Assistance Program. The U.S. Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) addresses a major problem facing the nation today—the high energy costs that fall most heavily on low-income families who struggle to avoid losing their homes.
WAP underwrites a portion of the cost of retrofitting the homes of low-income families. The energy and dollar savings help make housing more affordable, and the benefits of the one-time WAP investment last for years. In addition to fewer foreclosures and unpaid utility bills, the retrofitted homes are healthier without temperature extremes or leaking combustion gases. Reductions are achieved in air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Jobs are created in inner-city neighborhoods. See: Summary of Benefits.
Despite these timely benefits, the future of WAP is uncertain. President George W. Bush—a one-time champion—zeroed it out in the FY 2009 budget he submitted to Congress. The Democratic Congress is likely to restore some level of funding. The outlook is that WAP will survive, but fall far short of the leadership role it could play in addressing today’s energy and housing crisis. That is, unless there’s a change in policy direction.
After providing a capsule description of WAP as it exists today, this paper will trace the origin of the program back to its launch by President Gerald Ford; its maturation under six Presidents; the incorporation of advanced, cost-effective housing retrofit measures; the matching funding attracted from states, utilities, and other programs; the current uncertainty about its future, and actions needed to move it beyond survival to more effectively address today’s energy and housing challenges.