California Environmental Justice Alliance

Building Healthy Communities from the Ground up

Expanding community resilience with the SOMAH program

This February, Texan families were left in the cold without lifesaving heat or power. Years of deregulation, an isolated power grid, and insufficient weatherization failed communities in the face of a major winter storm. 

Watching from California, we mourned and stood in solidarity with Texan communities. To our communities it remains clear that worsening climate disasters – including wildfires, heatwaves, and cold weather snaps – will only continue to disproportionately impact he most marginalized.

That’s why CEJA is working to reimagine energy resilience, starting with investments in renewables, like solar, for populations who have often not been able to benefit from clean energy upgrades.

From last year’s wildfires and life-threatening heatwaves in California to the winter storms in Texas, we’ve seen community based organizations move into action: organizing relief funds, distributing masks, offering multilingual outreach, and more.

These mutual aid efforts reinforce the importance of frontline communities and community organizations to shape policy and implementation to ensure that programs like the Solar on Multifamily Affordable Housing (SOMAH) program continue to serve the needs of environmental justice communities, and in particular low-income renters who stand to benefit from solar.

SOMAH serves as an implementation blueprint for all policies and programs that aim to address disparities in under-resourced communities to ensure that even in the face of disasters, there is not only immediate support for our communities, but also long-term community-lead solutions for resilience.

SOMAH is the first of its kind to resource and develop strong relationships with CBOs as critical partners in the implementation of a program that is aimed to directly serve environmental justice communities. CEJA’s work on the implementation of this program, alongside the Environmental Health Coalition (EHC), Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN), Communities for a Better Environment (CBE), and Self Help Enterprises (SHE) has helped low-income renters access solar, putting our communities on the pathway towards developing clean energy resilience in the face of a changing climate.

To date the SOMAH program has 386 active applications with an overall capacity of 68 MW AC.

These applications account for 32,049 tenant units and the average allocation of solar energy to tenant units at 90%. 

We’re proud of the first couple years of SOMAH implementation, but more should be done to continue building on the opportunity to bring true resilience into our communities. More programs modeled after SOMAH’s authentic community based partnership model need to be adopted to ensure that programs that deliver resilience solutions are in coordination. 

That’s why CEJA, APEN, and NRDC are co-sponsoring Environmental Justice Resilience Hubs (AB1087, Chiu) to do just that – bring resilience hubs into our communities by coordinating with programs through a community-lead approach.

You can sign on to support EJ Community Resilience Hubs (AB1087). To learn more about our work with SOMAH, contact Gwen at gwen@caleja.org.