City and Regional Planning

Energy Cost Burdens for Low-Income Households in Six U.S. Cities

Implications for Housing Affordability, Housing Quality Improvements, and the Carbon Footprint of Cities

In research supported by the Kleinman Center for Energy Policy, Assistant Professor of City & Regional Planning Vincent Reina presents a new method to model household energy cost burdens based on actual energy use patterns at the building level across several major U.S. cities. Of the three primary components of housing affordability measures—housing cost, transportation costs, and utility costs—utility expenditures are the least understood. Yet, they comprise the one area where cost burden can be reduced without household relocation. Energy inefficient buildings have been connected to many health-related impacts, and are a significant contributor to the urban carbon footprint, but retrofit investments in multifamily buildings have had limited adoption.

Reina’s research links energy costs to savings opportunities for specific building types and attributes, and examines differentials across neighborhoods and socioeconomic groups, specifically comparing lower-income communities to wealthier neighborhoods. In collaboration with Constantine Kontokosta, Reina’s work shows how energy-use data can be used to determine the costs and benefits of a retrofit program.



Constantine Kontokosta, New York University Center for Urban Science and Progress (CUSP) / Tandon School of Engineering




Vincent Reina, Associate Professor, On leave from all roles below until 2023-2024 academic year