Boulder is getting tough on rentals.
In its bid to actually meet the carbon-cutting goals laid out by the Kyoto Protocol (to 7 percent below 1990 levels by 2012) the city has realized that it has to find some way to make landlords step up to the energy-efficiency plate.
The problem is the “split incentive.” Why pay to upgrade a rental unit when you’re not footing the monthly energy bill?
And in a university town like Boulder, where rentals make up more than 50 percent of the housing stock, getting landlords on board is key.
This week, the city unveiled a proposed set of point-based rules for a program it calls “SmartRegs.”
Under the program, landlords would be required to make improvements that could include installing energy-efficient appliances, sealing ducts or better insulating.
The city’s overall goal is to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions coming from homes by 94,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide by 2012. The SmartRegs program, it’s estimated, could make up about 45,000 tons of that goal.
If approved, rental properties would be required to achieve 100 “points” — including two points of mandatory water conservation — based on a lengthy list of possible improvements.
It’s not likely that any amount of convincing, or educating, or outreaching will convince landlords to make energy-efficiency upgrades to their rental properties. (Since tenants are the ones that usually pay the utility bills, it’s not a particularly attractive investment.)
So in Boulder — where 57 percent of all housing is rental housing — the city is considering a set of rules that would mandate upgrades.
Without such rules, advocates argue, there’s no way Boulder will ever meet its goal of complying with the Kyoto Protocol. But landlords are not psyched.
The proposed rules would tie the upgrade requirements to the existing rental-license renewal process, which happens every four years. Landlords would have to show that they’ve made necessary upgrades — or possibly that they’ve purchased carbon offsets to buy them more time to make the upgrades — before their licenses would be renewed.
The maximum necessary investment per rental unit would also likely be capped, possibly based on the value of the property.
Landlords across the city are “very frustrated,” said Sheila Horton, executive director of the Boulder Area Rental Housing Association. Read more