In an effort to combat climate change and tackle the city's pervasive digital divide, affordable housing development organization Workforce Housing Group has launched a new initiative to provide households with free, solar powered Wi-Fi.
Workforce Housing Group's Brooklyn Restoration, a scattered-site affordable housing development, consists of 24 buildings and 240 residential units located in East New York, Crown Heights and Bedford Stuyvesant. 18 of those buildings will be fitted with new solar panels, financed by NY Green Bank.
Using the savings from the solar power, the group will provide free Wi-Fi and premium broadband access for affordable housing residents across 22 of the buildings.
Additionally, in collaboration with New York State Housing Finance Agency, Workforce Housing refinanced its entire portfolio to ensure the apartments will remain affordable and stabilized for at least the next 35 years, the group said in a statement.
Workforce Housing Group Principal John A. Crotty said solar powered community Wi-Fi should become the new de facto standard for all affordable housing.
"We came up with this new solar powered community Wi-Fi to utilize both new technology and new financing mechanisms to deliver a sustainable and cost effective bridge across the digital divide," Crotty said.
"This is a revolutionary model that can be sustainably replicated across the city and eventually on a national level."
Workforce Housing Group has partnered with sustainable power nonprofit Solar One and Flume, an internet service provider bringing affordable options for high speed broadband access. Morgan Stanley has provided a grant to cover the upfront costs for wiring premium Flume internet service throughout the 22 buildings receiving the solar backed Wi-Fi.
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams said the new partnership would advance sustainability while also taking steps to narrow the digital divide.
"We have seen throughout the pandemic how critical affordable broadband connections are for New Yorkers of all ages and backgrounds, whether for continuing their education, pursuing career opportunities, or enrolling for government services, and I am thrilled that more Brooklynites will have access through this initiative."