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Making Homes Energy Efficient Is Expensive. Stimulus Could Help.

Retrofitting residential buildings is politically popular and has big climate benefits.

The Castle Square Apartments on Tremont Street in Boston in Jan. 2011, prior to being retrofitted.

The Castle Square Apartments on Tremont Street in Boston in Jan. 2011, prior to being retrofitted.

Photographer: Suzanne Kreiter/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

The buildings that comprise Castle Square, an affordable housing complex on Boston’s Southside, were put up quickly and cheaply in the 1960s. For the next 50 years, residents complained constantly about the uninsulated apartments, which were always either too hot or too cold. But there was so much else to be fixed, from leaky faucets to crumbling sidewalks, that when it finally came time to renovate in the late 2000s, efficient heating and cooling fell way down on the list.

“Mostly people wanted new kitchens,” says Deborah Backus, a founding member and current executive director of the tenants’ organization.