Memphis Pulls Pennies Together To Repair Aging Dwellings

view of white bungalow with white siding and black shingled roof. The window are boarded up. A painting of a cat's head decorates part of one wall.
Abandoned home in Memphis, Tennessee in 2012. A new program there helps to pay for housing repairs and keep them safe for people to live in.

Memphis Tennessee has figured out a nifty way to help their residents with low incomes pay for essential home repairs. All monthly power bills are rounded up to the next dollar. The difference between the cost of electricity and the next dollar goes into a fund for repairs. Each household contributes an average of $12 per year.

The article linked below shares the experience of the city official who took the phone calls when the power company started rounding up the bills. She reports:

“People would say, ‘I don’t want anybody telling me what to do with my money,’ but when they hear about what’s going on, they want to participate.”

It also shares the experience of a customer whose home has been repaired and what it means to be able to contribute to the program, which is called Share the Pennies:

“Everybody wants to be Bill Gates. Everybody wants to be Warren Buffet, but the reality is when you’re a single mother, like I am, I don’t have the liberty to sit here and write a $10,000 or $10 million check. But rounding up to the nearest dollar, that’s not going to affect anyone’s bottom line.”

The Share the Pennies program is offered year after year, and it has proven to be a good launch pad to tap other sources of one time funding, which increase the number of homes that the city can assist.

For those looking for ways to build sustainable programs, this story has lots of detail about how Share the Pennies started and continues to grow. Read more in the Tennessee Lookout: An overlooked climate solution unfolds in Memphis’ energy challenges