Monday, June 17, 2024

Affordable housing also means affordable energy bills

by Robin and Bill Paone
| March 9, 2022 1:00 AM

At a recent Flathead Habitat for Humanity volunteer breakfast we heard parents of young families express the importance of owning an affordable home. One mother mentioned how her kindergartner, who is currently sleeping in her “Harry Potter” closet under the stairs of their apartment, cannot wait to have her own bedroom and a pet cat.

Dozens of volunteers show up year-round to help build high-quality, affordable homes in our valley. Through the sweat equity of the new homeowners, and the generous donations of time, supplies, and dollars from our neighbors and local businesses, these homes are made affordable to our young families.

But a low mortgage is not the whole story. These homes are also affordable to live in. They are well-insulated. Heating and cooling is provided by efficient heat pumps. Energy-efficient electric appliances are installed. With low-cost clean energy provided by Flathead Electric Co-Op, new homeowners have exceptionally low energy bills — some as low as $200 per year (not month!)

Montana Public Radio recently reported that natural gas prices are skyrocketing. A spokesperson for NorthWestern Energy said, “The forecast that Northwestern Energy has for our residential customers is that residential customers may pay up to 47% more this winter than last winter to heat their homes.” By contrast, energy costs for the Habitat homeowners will remain low and reliable because they use clean energy.

Electricity from non-emitting sources like the sun, wind and water, are not affected by the fluctuating prices of fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas.) And, renewable energy is cheaper.

Burning fossil fuels also causes another problem. It releases heat-trapping pollution that sticks in our atmosphere. This is harming Montana. Our natural fisheries are warming. Smoky days are increasing from more frequent wildfires. To protect our outdoors and our health, let’s get away from using fossil fuels.

We can speed up the adoption of clean energy by putting a carbon tax on fossil fuel producers. A price on pollution will encourage investment toward clean energy and away from fossil fuel production.

Flathead Habitat for Humanity is helping solve the affordable housing crisis by building affordable, well-insulated and electrified homes. At the same time, it is helping solve the climate crisis by taking advantage of our clean electricity. We invite you to spend a fun and rewarding day at a home-building job site. Volunteer at

And, let Senators Tester and Daines, and Congressman Rosendale know you want plentiful, reliable, and affordable clean energy for all Montanans. Take a few minutes to call or write them today.

Robin Paone, Flathead Valley Co-Leader and State Co-Coordinator, Citizens’ Climate Lobby Bill Paone, Board Member, Flathead Valley Habitat for Humanity