Recently, City Councilor Mitch Greenwald raised an issue with the energy labeling requirements stated in the proposed energy plan. Effectively, the plan requires Realtors and landlords to inform prospective tenants and homebuyers of the estimated energy costs for apartments up for rent, or homes for sale.
Councilor Greenwald stated concerns that this might be confusing for prospective buyers/renters, and that landlords might have to raise rents to cover the cost of energy efficiency improvements. To be clear, the plan doesn’t call for requiring property owners to make any improvements, only to report on the estimated energy (heating/hot water/electricity) usage for a home or apartment, information that can be garnered easily and quickly, and sometimes even for free through local sustainability programs.
The standards and procedures for evaluating a home’s energy costs are well established, and findings are easily understood. Fuel-efficiency data is required to be provided to the purchaser of a new car; estimated energy usage is required to be placed on a big sticker on all new appliances; is it unreasonable to ask the same for a home?
I believe there is a nexus between home energy efficiency and housing insecurity. Consider that for many apartments in the city, heat and electric are not included in the rent. For an older multi-family unit (which makes up much of the housing stock in Keene), energy costs can be considerable due to poor insulation and outdated heating systems. This can result in a family or individual paying up to 20 percent more than their monthly rent, just to keep the unit warm.
For families on a tight budget, this can be a make or break scenario, and can often result in them having to choose between heat, rent, electric, food or other bills, sometimes kicking off the vortex that leads to homelessness. The city’s proposed energy plan would require landlords to disclose estimated monthly heating and electricity usage to prospective tenants, thus giving those on a budget the opportunity to make an informed decision on whether or not they can afford to rent an apartment.
What purpose does it serve to keep these costs hidden? Considering the rapidly increasing cost of housing in Keene, it’s necessary for individuals to have estimated energy costs available to them, so they can make an informed decision.
I call on the Keene City Council to pass the Keene Energy Plan, as is.
14 Carroll St., Keene