Graham Sustainability Institute

Building the Foundation for a Residential Utility Affordability Program in Detroit and Highland Park

March 2021

With more than 50,000 water shutoffs in the first quarter of 2020 alone, low-income Detroiters face a mounting burden from utility bills that are much higher in proportion to the national average. Though federal and state programs offer assistance to households in need, there are barriers to participation and insufficient resources to meet the scope of the need. In 2020, this Dow Fellows team partnered with EcoWorks Detroit, a local nonprofit founded in 1981, to build the financial model for a new Turnkey Home Retrofit (THR) program that would lower utility bills for low-income Detroit homeowners. Equipped with the financial model and implementation framework developed by the Dow Fellows team, EcoWorks is ready to lead the charge in implementing comprehensive utility efficiency measures and home repairs through innovative and inclusive financing mechanisms.