Climate and Energy Resources for State, Local and Tribal Governments

Advancing Greenhouse Gas Reductions through Affordable Housing

Learn about other climate showcase communities.

James City County, Virginia

Federal Funding: $303,828
Project Timeline: February 2010 – June 2014

Project Summary

Like many communities across the country, James City County’s residential housing market is experiencing many foreclosures. To address this issue, the County launched a program to link urban revitalization efforts with improvements in residential building energy performance. The goal of this program was to target older, low-to-moderate-income households in an area with one of the highest foreclosure rates in the county to achieve three goals:

  • retrofit, rehabilitate, and resell foreclosed homes,
  • promote energy audits and retrofits in owner-occupied homes, and
  • engage in public outreach and education.

First, the County built on existing efforts to revitalize neighborhoods by financing energy improvements in foreclosed homes that were undergoing rehabilitation. Some of these homes were part of the EarthCraft Single Family Renovations Program, which aims to reduce energy use in rehabilitated homes by a minimum of 30%. The County collected annual energy usage data from homebuyers who participated in the program.

Second, the County promoted energy efficiency retrofits in owner-occupied homes. Homeowners could apply to obtain energy audits and energy efficiency improvement cost estimates. A select number of low- and moderate-income households received financing for the recommended retrofits.

Finally, the County promoted the program's benefits through outreach and education initiatives. Elected officials, County staff, and County public access television station broadcasts promoted the rehabilitation and financing initiatives. The County also held open houses at rehabilitated homes to share the energy efficiency benefits of retrofits and opportunities to access resources. A webpage was designed to highlight the program and other conservation efforts, and to provide resources such as a simplified explanation of assessing home energy performance and ways to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

James City County has completed a total of 36 energy efficiency retrofits of residential buildings. Of the 36 retrofits, seven are EarthCraft retrofit projects and 29 are BPI retrofit projects. Forty-two energy audits were completed. James City County held meetings and workshops to reach out to residents about the home energy audits available through the program. The County also conducted outreach through their updated website and county television channel programming. The County received a draft program evaluation from interns from the College of William and Mary and continued working with the interns to finalize a program evaluation.

The program achieved direct GHG reductions through energy efficiency improvements, provided support to an economically stressed area of the county, and improved the housing stock. This affordable housing program is a key component of James City County's ongoing efforts to build a coalition of citizens, businesses, and local government that work together to promote energy efficiency and improve quality of life.

Top of Page

Community Characteristics

Population                                 50,000

Area                                          144 square miles

Government Type:                       County

Community Type:                        Suburban

Median household income:           $46,000 in targeted area

Top of Page


Final Results

Projected Cumulative Results

Annual GHG Reductions

83.0 mt CO2e

91.0 mt CO2e

Annual Electricity Savings

41 MWh

126 MWh

Annual Economic Savings



Buildings Retrofitted



Top of Page

Lessons Learned

Some results were estimated based on the average of improvements from previous projects. This approach has unfortunately resulted in an important lesson learned. The County has found that two similar homes with similar equipment and household composition may have very different post-retrofit outcomes. One household may be very conservative in their pre-retrofit utility usage while the other may not. In the end it is the more conservative household that appears to be the least successful project.

Top of Page


Contact James City County to discuss program implementation and results tracking.

Top of Page