Guest column

Bend City Council should start a Home Energy Score Program. Here’s why its included in the proposed Climate Action Plan being voted on in December. Energy costs can be a burden, (Oregon Housing and Community Services. OHCS) If your energy payments are more than 6% of your income, you are burdened. If your costs are more than 10%, you are severely energy burdened. Their records show that among those who are low income, (60% of median family income), about 60% in Deschutes County are energy burdened.

Energy costs are the elephant in the room that no one is talking about. It’s really troubling since the U.S. Energy Information Administration just disclosed that U.S. energy consumption hit a record high in 2018, primarily due to the use of fossil fuels.

Rather than take energy for granted, shouldn’t buyers and renters be more aware of how to reduce energy use and costs?

If energy costs contribute to burden, shouldn’t there be an effort to reduce them, particularly for low income communities?

Homebuyers pay for an inspection to tell them the roof may not last long, but shouldn’t they also know if they will have to spend more than average to heat their prospective new home? Shouldn’t renters also have this information that could severely impact their limited budgets? Shouldn’t prospective buyers be made aware of options to improve this? Energy Trust of Oregon, and the state of Oregon have many incentives for weatherization, heat and cooling upgrades, solar and energy storage options and more.

The Home Energy Score is an inspection and report, completed prior to rental or sale, at minimal cost to the owner.

Benefits to owners and builders of affordable housing, or multifamily units

— Owners may qualify for funds for improvements in efficiency.

— Owners that have made improvements have documentation to assist and inform the Realtor, appraiser and lender.

— Builders also qualify for funds for new or retrofit: Go to OregonMultifamilyEnergy.com

— Homes with solar and efficiency improvements, if improvements are owned, rather than leased, often have higher market value.

— Owners with improvements can promote an upgraded property, expanding its market to buyers that need or want an efficient, low energy cost home.

For renters and prospective home buyers

— Information on heating, cooling, and energy use and energy made, will help a buyer compare homes.

— Buyers and renters will be made aware of potential high energy costs

— Buyers will know if they need to invest in efficiency improvements

Efficiency investments pay off

— For every $1 spent on weatherization, there is $1.40 return on energy savings. When health and safety benefits are considered, we see a $4 return on our investment. (OHCS)

Some might say property owners should “voluntarily” participate. Unfortunately, history shows this is unlikely. Rather, shouldn’t the Bend City Council encourage transparency in home energy scoring? The benefits are many, not only to owners, renters, and homebuyers, but to the community.

Reducing energy use will help Bend reduce greenhouse gas emissions, helping to reduce climate impacts. Emission reductions not only help the planet, but help us to clean up our air, and pollution. Lastly, if the Bend City Council is concerned about affordable housing, the home energy score will help.

— Diane Hodiak is the executive director 350Deschutes, an environmental group.

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