April 9, 2010

Renters with Benefits ($).

A guest post by Kristen Painter. For more, click over to New Era News.

What do you always see listed on ads and postings for rental properties? Location and price. Clearly these are major factors that renters consider important in their housing decision. The location is pretty clear and really cannot be refuted.

Unfortunately, the price is less clear. The true price of real estate is more deceptive than the upfront cost may suggest. Currently there are not enough measurable indicators of what a rental unit is really costing the renters. While you may find yourself in an awesome location with cheap rent, what is being lost to energy inefficiency may outweight the supposed savings in cost.

This lack of knowledge regarding a unit’s energy cost is due to a legal barrier.  For privacy reasons, the energy company cannot lawfully give out information on energy bills to people who do not live in the unit currently.

To address this issue, the city of Boulder is currently updating its housing code to align with international standards and is drafting a proposal that would mandate all rental properties in the city to meet a minimum standard of energy efficiency.

They are switching to the International Property Maintenance Code and are creating an appendix that would implement the new energy standards. This locally developed appendix is being called SmartRegs and is something that we at New Era Colorado are really excited about.

The project is extremely important in that it could potentially impact all of Boulder’s renters. This would account for a large portion of Boulder’s population as 57 percent of the total residential properties in the city are rental units.

SmartRegs is designed to protect the renters in health, safety and transparency regarding their true housing costs.  Boulder, known as a national leader when it comes to environmental issues, will be one of the first to put these kinds of energy standards in place and is supported by the people of Boulder in their efforts.

Everyone Benefits

All required upgrades will be the responsibility of the rental property owner. There is concern by some that the cost it takes the landlords to upgrade will be put back on the tenants in the form of higher rent. However, the city will be offering assistance programs to aid owners in paying for these upgrades. The landlords benefit in that they will get assistance in upgrading their properties.

Meanwhile, the renters will be benefiting in lower energy bills.  This cost reduction could come from a variety of improvements such as sealed gaps in windows and doors, added insulation and programmable thermostats. Also, they are hopefully experiencing an improved quality of life through sealant of drafty units, which will allow for better maintenance of a comfortable environment.

Finally, the city as a whole benefits from a lower greenhouse gas emission. This is an active step toward the community’s Kyoto Goal that is stated in the city of Boulder’s Climate Action Plan. The city council, representing the citizens of Boulder, passed the Climate Action Plan.  SmartRegs is their first measurable step in a series of actions steps aimed at attaining the plan’s goals.

New Era Colorado is putting a lot of time and resources into this issue because it is worth it. The most important thing now is to get the word out, get feedback and to get a mass movement of renters’ voices heard and understood by the local government.  Here are some huge ways you can get involved and speak up for yourself:

• Join the Renters with Benefit$ for Boulder or the Renters with Benefits—Denver fanpages. It is the one stop shop for any and all important pieces of information. This is a collaborative site that

will be updated regularly. Trust me, it will be useful.
• Take the city of Boulder’s Energy Efficiency Survey
• Lastly, join us on our first BUS TRIP of 2010 on Apr. 11!

Get on The Bus!

Please join our Renters with Benefit$ Street Team for our Apr. 11 Express Bus Trip Extravaganza. We will be going to the University Hill and the Goss/Grove area to inform renters about possible changes coming to a city near them.

We will be collecting postcards of support and filming personal rental stories. SmartRegs would be among the first of its kind to be implemented, and frankly, we think it is overdue. Renters deserve a place to live that is comfortable and good for the environment.

What: Bus Trip Extravaganza Canvass about SmartRegs
Where: meet at 1648 Spruce St, Boulder CO
When: April 11th, 3-6 p.m.
Who: Renters with Benefit$ Street Team
Contact: [email protected] (720-565-9317)

Check it out on Facebook here.

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