Re-Launching the “Energy Insecurity in the Southeast” StoryMap

ATLANTA, GA– SEEA proudly announces the re-launch of our acclaimed StoryMap, “Energy Insecurity in the Southeast.” Initially unveiled in 2021, this innovative digital resource delves into the complex issue of energy insecurity, which is prevalent in the Southeast. In this region, one in three households experience or have experienced energy insecurity, particularly low-income households and people of color.

The original StoryMap garnered attention and became SEEA’s most-viewed and cited resource, drawing the interest of decision-makers, community advocates, journalists, researchers, and others eager to address the causes of energy insecurity.

Aimee Skrzekut, SEEA President, reflects, “To increase awareness and to track Southeast progress, SEEA has thoroughly updated and refreshed the StoryMap. The new version includes a broader conceptual framework integrating the most recent data while offering insights into the roots of energy insecurity in the Southeast. The StoryMap also highlights the role of existing policies in perpetuating disparities in energy insecurity and housing quality while showcasing SEEA’s multi-faceted approach to addressing the challenge of Southeast energy insecurity.”

William D. Bryan, Ph.D., SEEA’s Director of Research, notes that the new StoryMap “underlines the intersectional nature of energy insecurity.” “By calling attention to the ways that energy, housing, and financial policies have contributed to disparities in who experiences the burdens of energy insecurity, we hope to show the necessity of multi-stakeholder solutions that reach beyond the energy sector to include partners in housing, public health, healthcare, insurance, and more. In this way, energy efficiency can provide pathways to reduce energy costs and improve the quality, healthfulness, and sustainability of housing while also facilitating community stability and wealth building.”

To explore the newly refreshed StoryMap and learn more about SEEA’s efforts to foster a more equitable, resilient, and inclusive energy-secure South, visit Energy Insecurity in the Southeast (

For media inquiries, please contact:

William D. Bryan, Ph.D.

[email protected]

About SEEA:

The Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance (SEEA) is a nonprofit organization committed to advancing energy efficiency in the Southeast to create a cleaner, more resilient, and equitable energy future. By fostering collaboration among diverse stakeholders and providing technical expertise, SEEA drives impactful energy efficiency initiatives across the region.

April Map of the Month

By: Laura Diaz-Villaquiran

Map of the u.s. displaying regions at risk of extreme heat for mobile home residents, categorized by high, low, or both extremes under a future scenario for 2036-2065.Map of the u.s. displaying regions at risk of extreme heat for mobile home residents, categorized by high, low, or both extremes under a future scenario for 2036-2065.

Source: Union of Concerned Scientists, “Killer Heat in the United States” U.S. Census Bureau, Physical Housing Characteristics for Occupied Housing Units

Extreme heat is the leading cause of weather-related death in the United States, and Southeast communities are particularly vulnerable to heat impacts as the climate warms. This vulnerability is not distributed evenly across the region, however. Research suggests that residents of mobile homes are among the most vulnerable to the impacts of extreme heat, with one 2021 study finding that mobile home residents are six to eight times more likely to die from heat-related illness than people who live in other types of housing.

The South has the nation’s largest share of mobile homes, and this month’s map considers where mobile home residents may be at the highest risk from expected increases in the prevalence of extreme heat by the middle of the century (2036-2065). Counties on the map shaded in dark blue have a high proportion of mobile homes—at least a quarter of the occupied housing units in those counties—and a high percentage of days with heat index values above 100°F. As the map indicates, these factors are overrepresented in counties in Florida, Texas, Louisiana, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi.

Research shows that people may experience elevated health risks —including respiratory and cardiovascular issues that can result in death—when exposed to temperatures of 80°F or more. Risks depend on a range of factors, including the length of exposure, physical activity, overall health, local environmental conditions, and how acclimated people are to those conditions. Outdoor workers, children, elderly people, those who are pregnant, and people with underlying health conditions are most susceptible. These risks can be magnified by housing quality and access to affordable energy. A report from the Union of Concerned Scientists notes, “When nights remain hot, health risks rise, especially for those without access to air-conditioning or for whom the choice of turning on the air-conditioning presents difficult financial trade-offs.”

These issues are often magnified in mobile homes, which, on average, have energy costs that are double those costs in stick-built homes. Recent estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey indicate that 37% of people living in mobile homes, and earning less than $25,000 a year, kept their homes at an unsafe temperature to offset their cost-of-living expenses. Additionally, mobile home residents are more likely to face other “concentrated disadvantages” that include high energy burdens, lower-than-average incomes, a greater likelihood of living in rural areas that lack robust health and social services, and more.

Understanding future scenarios like this enables us to anticipate challenges for individuals residing in mobile homes while helping identify opportunities to leverage energy efficiency to mitigate heat-related illnesses and improve resiliency. These approaches could include home weatherization, implementing high-energy efficiency upgrades, and renewable energy retrofits. Additionally, targeted state and federal funding could prioritize communities that are most at risk of experiencing extreme heat in the coming decades.

National Emissions Standards: Unleashing Health & Economic Potential for the Southeast

By: Justin Brightharp

On March 20th and March 28th, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) finalized national emissions standards for passenger cars, medium-duty trucks and vans, and heavy-duty vehicles, respectively, applying to vehicle model years 2027 through 2032. These standards are expected to establish the United States as a leader in the clean transportation space, improve air quality, and lower fuel and operating costs for consumers.

Light-duty and Medium-duty Standard Projected Benefits

  • CO2 reduced by 7.2 billion metric tons
  • $13 billion in annual health benefits
  • Particulate Matter reduced 8,700 tons by 2055
  • NOx reduced 36,000 tons by 2055
  • Volatile Organic Compounds reduced by 150,000 tons by 2055
  • $46 billion in reduced annual fuel costs by 2055
  • Almost $16 billion in reduced annual maintenance and repair costs

Heavy-duty Standard Projected Benefits

  • 1 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions avoided from 2027 to 2055
  • Reduce air pollution for 72 million people near freight routes
  • $13 billion in annualized benefits through 2055:
    • $10 billion in climate benefits
    • $300 million in benefits from PM reduction
    • $3.5 billion in annual savings

Both standards are performance-based emissions, allowing flexibility in building gasoline vehicles with better engines and transmissions and increasing access to energy-efficient vehicle options like hybrid electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, battery-electric vehicles, and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. The southeast is home to billions of dollars in private investments from manufacturers along the electric vehicle supply chain, expecting tens of thousands of jobs. The transition towards transportation electrification will benefit the entire United States and local communities across the Southeast.

Projected Electric Vehicle Manufacturing Investments by State 2023

Map: SEEA. Data Source: Atlas Public Policy EV Hub Automaker Dashboard

Projected Electric Vehicle-Specific Jobs by State in the Southeast

Map: SEEA. Data Source: Atlas Public Policy EV Hub Automaker Dashboard

Supporting electric vehicle production requires manufacturing batteries, building vehicle chassis and bodies, building and deploying charging stations, vehicle and charging station maintenance, and battery recycling, all of which can be found in the southeast region. The U.S. EPA projects that 67% of new light-duty vehicle sales and 46% of new medium-duty vehicles could be electric due to the new emissions standards. Thousands, if not millions, of electric vehicles sold in the United States and globally could be built in the southeast region with rippling effects.

For every 100 direct jobs in a durable manufacturing industry, like automotive, over 744 indirect jobs are created. Through 2025, the Southeast region’s existing and announced private investments are expected to bring $93 billion and almost 170,000 direct manufacturing jobs for electric vehicles. This could mean over 1.2 million additional jobs from suppliers and induced jobs from existing and future businesses, including small businesses.

Projected Indirect Jobs from Electric Vehicle Manufacturing in the Southeast 2023

Map: SEEA. Data Source: Economic Policy Institute Employment Multiplier Report. Jan. 2019

The national emission standards for light-duty and medium-duty vehicles, as well as heavy-duty vehicles, provide consumers with health benefits and cost savings and emphasize consumer choice. One of the pathways to improved air quality and health, as well as affordable electric vehicles, for the United States, runs through many communities in the Southeast. The Southeast is poised to see economic growth and the many health and cost benefits from both emissions standards through the thousands of manufacturing jobs created by the electric vehicle supply chain and over a million indirect jobs. Coupled with federal tax incentives: $7,500 for new light-duty electric vehicles, $4,000 for used electric vehicles, and $40,000 for new commercial medium- and heavy-duty electric vehicles built in the United States and the billions of dollars of public investment from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act, we can further accelerate towards cleaner air and better health in our communities.

March Map of the Month

By Grace Parker

Source: Federal Communications Commission

In today’s interconnected world, broadband is not a luxury; it is a necessity. Broadband influences many facets of life, from access to education to employment opportunities and even health. Access to broadband is also critical to monitoring and reducing residential energy use. Many energy technologies, such as smart thermostats and smart meters, require broadband connectivity to function, while most energy assistance programs rely on online applications for aid. Households that have limited access to broadband can find it more difficult to make use of energy efficiency assistance and have fewer tools to monitor and reduce home energy use. 

Drawing on data from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) this month’s map shows the population in Arkansas without high-speed broadband access. Arkansas has about 251,000 households who lack adequate broadband access. At 14.3% of the state’s households, it’s one of the highest rates in the United States. That number increases to 17.4% when you account for those who have access to broadband infrastructure but do not have a subscription, likely because of affordability challenges. This problem extends across the South, with a 2009 report finding that the South had the lowest rate of broadband use and the greatest urban-rural divide.  

The FCC defines high-speed broadband as 100/20 megabits per second (Mbps), or 100 Mbps of download speed and 20 Mbps of upload speed. The FCC also set a nationwide goal of 1 Gbps/500 Mbps, which is currently only available in urban parts of Arkansas. This map likely underrepresents the population unserved by high-speed broadband since all the residents of a census block are considered served if anyone within it has access.  

The map highlights the difficulty broadband providers face in reaching rural areas, showing how, across the state, there are small, dispersed groups lacking broadband that will require significant investments in infrastructure by providers. Meanwhile, there are larger groups in more populated areas that still lack broadband access, which are more likely to be economical investments for providers. 

The lack of high-speed broadband and the energy efficiency measures it enables contribute to a concentrated disadvantage. Nationally, rural energy burdens are 40% higher than those in urban areas. Since most smart energy-saving devices communicate through the home’s broadband, these households have fewer opportunities to monitor and reduce their energy use. Energy assistance information and applications for programs such as the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) and utility offerings are often online, making it more challenging for these households to pursue energy efficiency upgrades. 

The Department of Commerce is investing over $1 billion in Arkansas and $12.8 billion in the Southeast as part of the “Internet for All” initiative, but some stakeholders and experts have expressed skepticism that this will be sufficient for making broadband universal. Electricity-broadband partnerships are one way to make the funding go further. These partnerships are expanding broadband coverage in the Southeast by sharing infrastructure, making it more cost-effective for broadband providers to reach dispersed populations. These partnerships include investor-owned utilities like Entergy and Alabama Power and many electric cooperatives. Electricity access – which is nearly universal in the United States from an infrastructure standpoint – far outpaces that of broadband, in part due to the work of electric cooperatives created to expand service into rural areas. These intersectional partnerships will be crucial to reaching the rural Southeast. 

Map of the Month – February

Laura Diaz-Villaquiran

Hover over the map to click through the slideshow. Click on image to view full image.

  • Redlining and Tree Canopy in Memphis, Tennessee

Data Source: Mapping Inequality: Redlining in New Deal America Dataset;  U.S. Forest Service Tree Canopy Cover (TCC) Dataset; Maps: SEEA.

Few things have impacted cities today as much as the suite of policies and practices that segregated neighborhoods on the basis of race over more than a century. Housing segregation had existed in practice for decades before the 1910s when white policymakers enacted the first racial zoning laws. Although these laws were declared unconstitutional by the United States Supreme Court in 1917, white city officials throughout the South still found ways to advance racial residential segregation.

In the 1920s and 1930s, segregation was taken up by the federal government in the form of “redlining,” the practice of denying financial lending – particularly for home purchases or improvements – to people based on their race or ethnicity and what neighborhood they lived in. For instance, the federal Home Owners’ Loan Corporation (HOLC) developed a series of maps that used the racial makeup of city neighborhoods to guide mortgage lending practices based on their assessment of the risk of lending. HOLC devised a four-tiered system that characterized neighborhoods in more than two hundred cities as A – best, B – still desirable, C – declining, and D – hazardous. These ratings were largely based on the racial makeup of a neighborhood, with C and D ratings typically having a larger share of racial and ethnic minorities than neighborhoods that rated A and B.

HOLC maps had less of an impact on private markets than often suggested, but they guided Federal Housing Administration (FHA) lending decisions for decades. Beyond that, they are also a spatial reflection of generations of policies and programs that segregated American cities, with far-reaching consequences that still shape cities today.

Using tree canopy cover data from the U.S. Forest Service, this month’s map explores the relationship between redlining and urban tree canopy. In three cities (Columbia, Jackson, and Memphis), we find that formerly redlined neighborhoods have about half the level of tree canopy today than historically white neighborhoods.

In Memphis, Tennessee, formerly redlined neighborhoods have an average tree canopy covering 20% of the neighborhood, while neighborhoods rated “A” have canopies that cover about 43% of their land area. In Jackson, Mississippi, formerly redlined neighborhoods had an average tree canopy of 24%, while neighborhoods rated “A” have 50% canopy cover. In Columbia, South Carolina, formerly redlined neighborhoods had 15% tree canopy, compared to 32% for non-redlined neighborhoods.

These findings are consistent with national studies, which demonstrate how the legacies of residential segregation continue to impact people of color. This results in uneven access to public greenspace, less shade from trees, hotter temperatures, and poor air quality which can lead to more heat-related illness and asthma rates. Increased temperatures can place higher energy demands and financial burdens on people living in these areas, which will further strain health and household budgets as extreme heat becomes more common in the next few decades.

These implications underscore the need for comprehensive energy efficiency, clean energy, and urban planning strategies to mitigate adverse impacts. They also show that energy efficiency is an intersectional issue that must be advanced through collaborative efforts across sectors, including energy, public health, urban planning, and development.

Map of the Month – January

Grace Parker

Data Source: EIA Annual Electric Power Industry Report Form EIA-861 Dataset; Graph: SEEA

Accessing household energy data is critical to developing effective and evaluating efficiency programs, deploying energy assistance, and managing home energy use. Yet the accessibility of this data varies widely. One way to explore the accessibility of energy data is through Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI), a technology that monitors household energy usage, sends the encrypted data to the utility, and can communicate information back to the customer. A previous technology, Automated Meter Readings (AMR), allowed utilities to access real-time energy usage data but did not allow two-way communication with customers. The potential benefits of AMI include real-time energy adjustments by customers to lower bills, usage and outage notifications, and time-of-use pricing that encourages customers to shift energy use to times with lower energy prices. Because AMI provides granular data on energy usage, it can also be used to target and evaluate programs or policies for maximum impact and customer benefit.

This month’s map shows the percentage of residential energy sales (in MW) in each state that are monitored by AMI, as reported by electric utilities to the Energy Information Administration (EIA). The transparency of the map corresponds to how representative the data reported is of the state’s residential energy sales; states in which utilities report sufficient data for a high percentage of their energy sales appear opaque, while states in which utilities did not appear transparent. Both the percentage of energy tracked by AMI and the completeness of the data reported by utilities vary dramatically. The Southeast overall has a high rate of adoption with six states exceeding 90 percent of energy monitored by AMI, and the Southeast has some of the most complete data in the United States. In areas with low AMI adoption rates, its cost may be a barrier. AMI is more expensive than AMR, so ratepayers would first have to pay for the upgrade before realizing energy savings.

Even in areas that appear to have high adoption of AMI, there may still be barriers to accessing the data. A report by Mission: data national coalition of technology companies that works on energy data access—found that of the more than 17 million advanced meters funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in 2009, less than 3% have real-time data features enabled.

Some customers may even be unaware that they have AMI. According to the Residential Energy Consumption Survey, only 28% of households in the U.S. reported having an electricity “smart meter” in 2020, despite utilities reporting that about 65% of residential customers had one.

The data used in this map, which is reported unevenly to EIA and only covers around 70% of residential energy sales in the United States, underscores additional barriers to energy and data accessibility. As regulators and researchers continue to address data access issues, they must work with utilities to ensure the full benefits of AMI are realized and to understand the challenges to obtaining and reporting complete, high-quality data.

To this end, SEEA is launching a working group, as part of our Southeast Energy Insecurity Project (SEIP), to explore pathways to build data transparency around energy and housing data so that this data can be leveraged to address energy insecurity through policies and programs. If you, or your organization, are interested in digging into this issue as a member of a SEIP working group, please reach out to Will Bryan, SEEA’s Director of Research, at [email protected].

Growth of electric vehicle infrastructure offers hope for repair and renewal

Shrika Madivanan, Digital Communications Intern and Justin Brightharp, Senior Program Manager

Updated January 4, 2024

Pursuing equitable solutions starts with acknowledging the legacies of discrimination in in southeastern energy and transportation systems. In 2023, SEEA created three new StoryMaps that take a look at how energy security and equity impact transportation in Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina. We used data from federal and state sources alongside stakeholder feedback that tell a story about how transportation systems impact Black and brown communities and low- to moderate-income communities.

Each StoryMap utilizes unique data and stakeholder engagement, but share a common narrative that recognizes the unequal distribution of the benefits of clean transportation, community inclusion in decision-making, and burdens of emissions. They also provide policy recommendations that support an equitable transition to zero emission transportation. The StoryMaps are a resource for decision-makers and other stakeholders to identify which communities have experienced the most negative impacts from the transportation system and how to pursue federal and state funding opportunities that reduce transportation emissions, economically support communities and improve local public health.

Bus station in Durham, NC, 1940 – Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA/OWI Collection

SEEA is committed to acknowledging the influence of historic racism within the energy sector and related industries such as healthcare, insurance, housing finance and transportation. Racial segregation has always been a part of our country’s transportation systems and these historical inequalities still impact energy efficiency and transportation equity today. SEEA is developing a set of maps that illustrates how transportation infrastructure places additional burdens on people of color, and how zero emission public transit, fleets, and personal vehicles can address these issues. 

One of the most notable challenges in the system is an absence of charging systems in Black, Latino, low income and rural communities. The lack of accessible charging stations in minority communities today is the result of a long history of prioritizing white spaces. When Congress approved the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, they intended to ensure “speedy, safe transcontinental travel,” but in doing so they also displaced many Black households. Many Black neighborhoods were demolished to build the interstate highway system, which amplified existing inequities like racial segregation and poverty. The destruction of these vibrant communities made accessing basic needs such as housing and access to clean air a burden for those who lived there.    

Construction of the downtown connector, Atlanta, GA, 1950

Black residents who were not displaced experienced ongoing discrimination because the newly built highways cut off minority neighborhoods from economic opportunity. Often excluded from white neighborhoods, they were pushed to find new housing in communities already segregated by race and class. This put Black communities at an even greater disadvantage when looking for quality housing, employment opportunities and public services.   

Public transit also has a history of racial inequality. When streetcars were first introduced, they initially created opportunities for people of color, making travel throughout cities more convenient. Still, segregation remained commonplace through mechanisms like separation screens and assigned seats. Though these explicit tools used to perpetuate racism have since been outlawed, access to public transit is still stratified by race. 

Many public transit systems today are built on the foundation of two different consumers, “choice” and “dependent” riders. These terms mask descriptions of white and Black people, concealing biases toward white riders. This bias appears in transit system design. Systems are built under the assumption that “choice riders” need accommodations such as new rail lines and more accessible routes because they have a choice, whereas “dependent riders” receive the bare minimum as they have no room to be selective. Transit systems take extra steps to build schedules, route structure and infrastructure centered around white people. This bias extends to electric vehicles (EVs). The EV sector is growing quickly, aided by consumer interest and an influx of federal funding. This time of growth and transition provides an opportunity to build a better system and not repeat the mistakes of the past. 

While improvement is still needed, public transit has reduced emissions and provides affordable, necessary services. The use of zero-emission buses is one example of the transit system making strides to be more sustainable and accessible. The Southeast has the second largest percentage of zero-emission buses in the nation, just behind the western states. The transit agencies that serve Lexington, KY, Chattanooga, TN, and Orlando, FL are regional leaders in low and zero emission buses. Last month, the City of Orlando released its 2030 Electric Mobility Roadmap outlining the city’s vision for cleaner, more equitable mobility opportunities from public transit to EV adoption to multimodal options.  

Egor Litvinov

Accessible, clean transportation creates opportunity and improves the quality of life for all. In addition to increasing the number of locations of charging systems, increasing the different types of charging systems ensures charging is easy to access and affordable. State and federal incentives like rebates reduce the upfront cost to purchase a new or used EVs, removing an additional barrier to adoption.   

There are multiple obstacles that impact widespread EV adoption in minority and low income communities. Charging infrastructure is not widely available yet and it’s estimated that 80% of EV charging occurs at home and work. If a driver’s home or place of work does not have charging stations, they will need to install a charger at home, which increases upfront costs. Most Americans buy used vehicles as opposed to new vehicles. However, used electric vehicles are harder to find at most used car dealerships. Although the majority of people in the U.S. and Southeast drive personal vehicles, many people rely on other forms of transportation such as motorcycles, bikes, and public transit. Improving fleet electrification – the transition of light-duty vehicles, trucks, and delivery trucks to electric vehicles – is essential to expanding accessibility and provides additional options for clean transportation.    

Transitioning to more low and zero emission vehicles is critical to Black, Latino and low income communities adjacent to interstate highways and travel corridors. Black and Latino communities are disproportionately affected by air pollution, and the lack of electric vehicles and charging stations within these communities contributes to emissions levels. From 1990-2019, a hike in demand for travel resulted in an increase in CO2, methane, and N2O emissions from buses by 162% and from medium and heavy-duty trucks by 92.9%. Medium and heavy-duty vehicles, including buses, account for less than 10% of vehicles on the road but contribute more than 60% of NOx and PM emissions.  

Andrew Roberts

Prioritizing building charging infrastructure in Black, Latino, low income and rural communities will make EV adoption easier, more affordable, and inclusive of all people living in the Southeast. Improving the accessibility of charging infrastructure will give way to new economic growth locally and regionally. EV drivers have longer dwell times, up to 45 minutes, at charging stations compared to gas stations. This extended break encourages time at nearby businesses like restaurants or shopping. In the Southeast, the EV manufacturing sector is expected to add thousands of jobs and billions in revenue to states and municipalities.  

SEEA uses resources like StoryMaps to engage with regional and national decision makers on how to make the transition to low-and-zero carbon emissions vehicles more affordable and accessible and move towards a more just transportation system. We plan on publishing a new StoryMap focused on transportation and equity soon. If you have questions about this work, contact Senior Manager, Justin Brightharp.  

Map of the Month – December

Grace Parker

Source: Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council, Home Mortgage Disclosure Act Dataset; Graph: SEEA

Following last month’s map that explored home purchase mortgage denial rates by race, this month’s map shows home improvement mortgage denial rates by race in five Southeast cities: Atlanta, Birmingham, Miami, Nashville, and Richmond. Like mortgage loans for home purchases, we found wide disparities between racial groups in their ability to access lending for home improvements. Using data collected by the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to ensure compliance with the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act, we discovered that the denial rate for home improvement loans in each city is highest for Black and Hispanic applicants, followed by Asian applicants, with white applicants experiencing the lowest rates. In Birmingham, the denial rate for Black applicants is twice that of white applicants. 

In each of these cities, denial rates for home improvement mortgages are generally higher than those for home purchase mortgages. Home Mortgage Disclosure Act regulations consider home improvement loans as those that are “for the purpose, in whole or in part, of repairing, rehabilitating, remodeling, or improving a dwelling or the real property on which the dwelling is located.” This includes home improvement spending built into mortgages for home purchases or lines of credit opened for home improvement if the home itself is used as collateral on the loan. 

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Housing Survey, about a third of home improvements in the Southeast are for energy efficiency measures. Limited access to capital for home improvement hinders the ability of homeowners, particularly Black, Hispanic, and Asian homeowners, to make energy efficiency upgrades. This further contributes to racial disparities in energy costs and burdens and makes it more difficult for people of color to access healthy, efficient and affordable housing. 

Map of the Month – November

Grace Parker

hover over the map to click through the slideshow

  • Mortgage denials for white households.

Source: Dynamic National Loan-Level Dataset, U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau; Maps: SEEA

Redlining and other forms of housing segregation officially ended in 1968 with the Fair Housing Act, but access to lending still differs depending on a person’s race. People of color are still more likely to be denied access to mortgage lending than white people. Homeownership is the most common pathway to building generational wealth in the United States and limiting access to capital for buying a home not only prevents people from healthy, safe, and affordable housing and inhibits social mobility. 

This month’s map tracks disparities in mortgage lending throughout the Southeast using data collected from federally- backed lenders as part of the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA). It shows the mortgage denial rate by race among counties in the Southeast between 2018 and 2022. As housing costs and high- interest rates raised monthly mortgage payments, lenders denied around 12 percent of home purchase mortgage applications in the Southeast. However, the applicants are not denied evenly. Between 2018 and 2022, about 10 percent of non-Hispanic white applicants, 8 percent of Asian applicants, 14 percent of Hispanic applicants, and 21 percent of Black applicants in the Southeast were denied mortgage loans.  

In 2022, the most common reason for mortgage application denials was insufficient income. Income also varies by race. The median non-Hispanic, white household income in 2022 was $81,000; Asian household income was $109,000, Hispanic household income was $63,000, and Black household income was $53,000. Inequities in income, lending, and the ability to build wealth impact a household’s ability to access safe and healthy housing. A lack of mortgage capital also makes it difficult for people to access the benefits energy efficiency, whether through housing choice or home retrofits. Stay tuned for a forthcoming map on lending for home improvements, which will shed light on the ability of households to achieve energy efficiency savings through home improvement capital.  

Map of the Month – September

Grace Parker

Source: U.S. EPA, Environmental Justice Screening and Mapping Tool
Map: Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates
Map: Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance

The EPA’s Clean School Bus Program aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and exposure to air pollution by replacing older school buses with low-emission and zero-emission models. Has that funding reached the communities most impacted by the harmful effects of diesel school buses? Diesel buses produce diesel particulate, which has been linked to an increased risk of asthma and cancer. A part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Clean School Bus Program provides funding to school districts to purchase new low-emission and zero-emission buses. This funding supports a global reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, local air quality improvements, and health benefits to nearby communities.

This month’s maps show that the school districts that were awarded program funding in 2023 are generally more rural, have high student poverty rates and lower levels of diesel particulate, especially compared to more urban districts. The EPA prioritizes funding for rural school districts, high-need local education agencies, and schools that serve residents of Native American lands. High-need local education agencies include districts where 20 percent or more of students served are from low-income families. The student poverty map shows that most of the funding went to these districts. The Clean School Bus Program largely supports schools that have smaller budgets and serve students from lower-income communities.

This month’s maps reveal a tension between funding districts that have the most difficulty paying for clean school buses and funding districts with the highest diesel particulate pollution. However, we can target funding to areas that need support to overcome both of these challenges, like New Orleans. Although a district with similar needs in Birmingham received a $3.6 million grant, New Orleans districts did not. School districts seeking cleaner air and better health for their communities need additional outreach and technical assistance to support their funding applications to the Clean School Bus Program. By focusing on districts that face multiple obstacles to their achieving their goals, we can deepen the impact of this historic and critical funding.