Green Rehabilitation Program

North Miami, Florida 

Arthur Sorey, Interim City Manager
Tanya Wilson, Director of Planning & Zoning

The city of North Miami faced a multi-faceted challenge: a higher-than-average proportion of residents living below the poverty line, budget constraints, aging housing stock, and ecological characteristics that put it at high risk of damage caused by climate change and sea level rise.

Many local housing units are in dire need of improvements; they may contain lead-based paint, may be unsuitable for the elderly or persons with disabilities, and may be candidates for energy-efficiency retrofits. Housing costs consume a large percentage of residents’ income, and little remains for home improvements.

In addition, North Miami's business community is 90 percent small businesses, and supporting them is critical. A survey identified utilities as one of their highest costs. Furthermore, several businesses that were damaged in Hurricane Irma in 2017 were not storm ready and were unable to reopen. Yet many businesses, like homeowners, cannot afford the cost of improvements.

Despite these challenges, the city continually seeks to promote carbon reduction and other sustainable practices, believing that greener buildings are key to achieving sustainable communities—which are good places to live, work, and do business.

"Green" improvements include high-efficiency air conditioning units, LED lighting, solar panels, insulation, low-flush toilets, water-saving showerheads, high albedo roofing that reflects sunlight, and energy-efficient windows and doors. Storm readiness improvements include impact windows and generators. But these improvements come with a cost.

In response to the seemingly insurmountable challenges, the city leveraged funds from its annual Community Development Block Grant federal allocation to establish Green Rehabilitation Programs for residences and businesses, based on requirements in the city’s Comprehensive Plan and adopted program guidelines.

For residences, the Green Residential Rehabilitation Program requires that all rehabilitation and construction of affordable housing units uses environmentally friendly products and and/or services, thus improving the city’s housing stock and reducing the utility expense within each household. 

Next, the city established the Green Business Rehabilitation Program, which provides grants for rehabilitation of commercial or industrial property occupied by a “small business”—one that has seven or fewer employees and is not part of a national chain or franchise.

For a business, a free Florida Power and Light energy audit first identifies energy deficiencies and sets a projected baseline of cost and energy savings. Based on the results, certain improvements may qualify for “green” retrofit. The maximum amount available to each business is $10,000, paid directly by the city to qualifying contractors/vendors.

Since the start of the residential program in 2008, the city has rehabilitated approximately 1,200 housing units, resulting in an average energy saving to date of 321 kilowatt-hours per home (approximately $3,200 saving on energy bills); and achieved an overall emission reduction of more than 700 metric tons of CO2.

Since 2015, 40 businesses have taken advantage of the program and collectively achieved a reduction of more than 25 tons of CO2 emissions. Several business owners have reported that their energy bills have decreased by 50 percent.

North Miami’s Green Rehabilitation Program is an innovative, citizen-centric approach to its multiple challenges. It illustrates how local governments can develop workable solutions, leverage federal or state dollars, and create a more resilient, affordable, and sustainable community.