Workers install energy efficient windowsThe relationship between the Obama Administration and Americans' homes has been decidedly hit and miss. The White House keeps putting out programs designed to help Americans keep their homes, but none have proven effective in anywhere near the numbers it'll take to cure what ails the housing market.

Taking a different tack to help homeowners who are in a stable mortgage situation stay that way, President Obama recently launched the Better Buildings Initiative, a massive program designed to boost the energy efficiency of government, commercial and residential buildings.Here are three ways the president plans to use the Better Buildings Initiative to help homeowners save money and the planet, in one fell swoop -- mostly using funds from the $20 billion that was already allocated to help maximize the efficiency of American buildings under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA):
  1. ARRA will invest in the Weatherization Assistance Program, Better Buildings, and the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant, weatherizing and retrofitting 600,000 homes, nationwide.
  2. Tax incentives for homeowners who install such efficiency boosters as dual-paned windows, weatherproof doors and efficient heating and air conditioning units would be ratcheted up, under the HOMESTAR program, a $6 billion package of incentives for taxpayers to initiate energy-saving home-improvement projects.
  3. Most of the power to make changes in local building codes and standards lies with cities, counties and states, rather than the federal government. As part of the "Race to Green" program, the President's budget will propose competitive grants to state and local governments that are able to streamline standards in a way that promotes efficiency, and encourages building owners to upgrade their efficiency.
There are even more programs -- and dollars -- in the Better Buildings Initiative devoted to improving the energy-efficiency of commercial buildings and institutions, like colleges and universities. Fortunately for the little guy, many of those dollars will fund programs that will train a new generation of workers in energy efficient building technologies and create jobs for these types of workers.

Win for homeowners, win for job-seekers, win for industry and a huge win for the generations who will inhabit the earth after us.

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