Full-Time Reducing the Utility Burden on Frontline Communities
King County has prioritized climate change mitigation, adaptation, and justice across the region. Many renters, however, struggle to access climate change mitigation programs that homeowners connect with easily (e.g., retrofitting or utilities discount programs). The FUSE Executive Fellow will investigate the utilities burden that King County renters face and develop policy and program recommendations to provide renter-specific relief.
Fellowship Dates: October 23, 2023 – October 21, 2024
Salary: Executive Fellows are FUSE employees and receive an annual base salary of $80,000. Fellows can also access various health, dental, and vision insurance benefits. Compensation for this year of public service is not intended to represent market-rate compensation for the experienced professionals in our program.
ABOUT THE FUSE EXECUTIVE FELLOWSHIP
FUSE is a national nonprofit working to expand social and economic opportunities, particularly for communities that have been limited by a history of systemic and institutionalized racism. FUSE partners with local governments and communities to more effectively address pressing challenges by placing experienced professionals within city and county agencies. These FUSE Executive Fellows lead strategic projects designed to advance racial equity and accelerate systems change. Since 2012, FUSE has led over 250 projects in 40 governments across 20 states, impacting the lives of 25 million people.
When designing each fellowship project, FUSE works closely with government partners and local stakeholders to define a scope of work that will achieve substantive progress toward regional priorities. FUSE then conducts an individualized search for each project to ensure that the selected candidate has at least 15 years of professional experience, the required competencies for the role, and deep connections to the communities being served. They are data-driven and results-oriented and able to effectively manage complex projects by developing actionable roadmaps and monitoring progress to completion.
Executive Fellows are hired as FUSE employees and embedded in government agencies for at least one year of full-time work. Throughout their fellowships, they receive training, coaching, and professional support from FUSE to help achieve their project goals. FUSE Executive Fellows bring diverse perspectives and new approaches to their projects. They build strong relationships with diverse arrays of stakeholders, foster alignment within and across various layers of government, and build partnerships between governments and communities.
In 2020, King County unveiled an updated Strategic Climate Action Plan (SCAP). Significantly, this new plan elevated the knowledge, experiences, and needs of BIPOC, immigrant, refugee, and LGBTQIA+ communities in the new Sustainable & Resilient Frontline Communities (SFRC) section. The SFRC section outlines eight focus areas and six cross-cutting strategies that the county will employ in implementing inclusive climate change policies and programs. One of those focus areas is Energy Justice & Utilities, which sets goals for:
- Reducing the energy and utility burden on frontline communities;
- Expanding renewable energy and energy efficiency in frontline communities; and
- Integrating frontline community expertise into energy and utility policy and decision-making.
One opportunity to advance all three of the SFRC’s energy justice and utilities goals would be to relieve the utilities burden of renters. In 2020, local climate justice organization Puget Sound Sage found that only 33% of eligible non-Seattle residents of King County received low-income energy bill assistance. They also found that a $50 per month increase in utility costs leads to an increase in negative coping strategies, such as reducing food purchases or unplugging appliances. Many people impacted by the utility burden are renters in multi-family dwellings who cannot (or do not know how to) make the necessary alterations to their utility use and energy efficiency, and often are not aware of the utility costs embedded in their rent.
As King County implements incentives to promote climate resilience, make energy efficient upgrades to properties, and encourage other housing-focused climate change strategies, these opportunities must be accessible to renters, including those in multi-family buildings. By reducing renters’ utility costs, encouraging retrofitting in renter buildings, and engaging renters in decision-making, King County can promote climate justice for all.
King County will partner with FUSE to advance the SCAP’s SFRC energy justice and utilities agenda. The FUSE Executive Fellow will investigate the utility burden on renters living in rental housing, identify potential methods to relieve renters of their burden, and make policy and programmatic recommendations for advancing the agenda going forward. This work will equip King County staff with the analysis and tools necessary to drive meaningful progress in climate change mitigation and energy justice in the region.
PROJECT SUMMARY & POTENTIAL DELIVERABLES
The following provides a general overview of the proposed fellowship project. This project summary and the potential deliverables will be collaboratively revisited by the host agency, the fellow, and FUSE staff during the first few months of the fellowship.
Starting in October 2023, the FUSE Executive Fellow will develop deep relationships with key stakeholders, including members of King County government (e.g., the King County Interdepartmental Climate Team), partnering municipalities (e.g., City of Seattle), regional corporate partners (e.g., Puget Sound Energy), environmental justice groups and citizen advisory groups (e.g., the Climate Equity Community Task Force, Puget Sound Sage, the Tenants Union of Washington, Seattle’s Department of Construction and Inspections), and members of the public. The Executive Fellow will gain an understanding of the strengths, opportunities, and constraints that stakeholders face, as well as their aspirations for regional utility justice. At the same time, the Executive Fellow will conduct an extensive review of best practices and models from communities similar to King County that have enacted renter-centered programming justice for their utilities.
Next, the Executive Fellow will leverage the relationships they have built to investigate the burden (economic and otherwise) that utilities place on renters compared to homeowners. This investigation should include both quantitative and qualitative analysis to measure the utility burden and to center the stories, expertise, and insights of BIPOC households who are disproportionately housed in multi-family rental units (e.g., City of Seattle, Market Rate Housing Needs and Supply Analysis, 2021). It should also factor in utilities that are usually pass-through costs in multifamily (gas, water, sewer, garbage) using a methodology for estimating utility costs passed to tenants. As part of this investigation, the Executive Fellow will explore the multiple income measurement metrics (e.g., Area Median Income) used in King County to identify inclusive qualifications for program participation. Lastly, they will develop case studies to illustrate this utility burden. It will include utilities that are passed through to tenants by building owners.
Finally, depending on the results of the investigation, the FUSE Executive Fellow will equip their counterparts at King County with the tools and recommendations necessary to continue advancing the utility justice agenda. This could include community education materials on how renters and building owners can take advantage of climate change mitigation programs in a mutually beneficial way or recommendations on how county-level climate change mitigation policies and programs can center renters to accelerate progress towards climate goals. By October 2023, the Executive Fellow will have overseen the following:
- Conduct a Stakeholder Listening Tour – Develop relationships with stakeholders in King County government, community groups, and members of the public; the listening tour should also include a review of approaches that have been effective in regions similar to King County
- Quantitative and Qualitative Analysis – Analyze and measure the apparent and the pass-through costs (financial and otherwise) of the utility burden on renters compared to homeowners; demonstrate the consequences of that cost on family and community wellbeing; collect case studies illustrating the cause and impact
- Ideas for Relief – Develop policy and program recommendations to remove the excess utility burden and promote utility justice for all King County residents, regardless of their dwelling type or owner/renter status
- Insights to Advance the Agenda – Equip King County stakeholders with the tools, recommendations, communications products, and analysis necessary to advance the utility justice agenda long-term, with an emphasis on community, government, and policy maker education and centering the needs of frontline communities in county-wide climate change policy and programs
- Executive Sponsor – Mo McBroom, Deputy Director, Department of Natural Resources and Parks, King County
- Project Supervisor – Vicky Raya, Climate Equity and & Community Partnerships Manager; Climate Team, King County
In addition to the qualifications listed below, a background in community engagement, qualitative and quantitative analysis, and project management is strongly preferred for this project.
- Synthesizes complex information and process large data sets into clear and concise recommendations and action-oriented implementation plans.
- Develops and effectively implements both strategic and operational project management plans.
- Generates innovative, data-driven, and result-oriented solutions to difficult challenges.
- Responds quickly to changing ideas, responsibilities, expectations, trends, strategies and other processes.
- Communicates effectively both verbally and in writing and excels in both active listening and conversing.
- Fosters collaboration across multiple constituencies in order to support more effective decision making.
- Establishes and maintains strong relationships with a diverse array of stakeholders, both inside and outside of government, and particularly including community-based relationships.
- Embraces differing viewpoints and implements strategies to find common ground.
- Demonstrates confidence and professional diplomacy, while effectively interacting with individuals at all levels of various organizations.
FUSE is an equal opportunity employer with core values of diversity, equity, and inclusion. We encourage candidates from all backgrounds to apply for this position.