Accessory Dwelling Units: A Sustainable Housing Solution

Guest post from Mary Hearn, ADU Enthusiast & Advocate

Learn more about the ADU Lab here

Allowing homeowners to add accessory dwelling units (ADUs) to their property is one of the most promising infill development strategies we have for increasing our supply of housing within the existing fabric of our community.

Many communities across the country are experiencing a severe housing crisis due to a lack of housing inventory that is causing prices to rise and leaving many residents completely priced out of their local markets.  This market reality tends to force large scale development to the urban fringe, which then increases traffic and greenhouse gas emissions as people travel to and from their homes and businesses.

There are numerous community advantages to infill-type developments such as ADUs.  They distribute less expensive housing throughout the city while having less visual impact on neighborhood character.  They can provide flexible space for a home office or on-site caregiver, housing for family members, or provide additional rental income to a homeowner.

Since these units tend to have a smaller footprint, ADUs by design contribute to a more sustainable and livable community.  We must begin to reimagine our urban landscape in a way that preserves and respects our Urban Growth Boundary and creates more affordable housing options close to common destinations like schools, jobs, parks, and retail.

By restricting urban sprawl and building in the core, we alleviate lengthy commuter traffic, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, avoid the added cost for new public infrastructure and maintenance, preserve open space and natural resources, and contribute to a healthier community.

If we as a community desire to thrive in good health and create a high quality of life for all of our residents, we must continue to advocate for more infill development that allows for a variety of housing types to meet a variety of family sizes and incomes.  ADUs are one small, but mighty solution.

Welcome to your new energy efficient home

With EPS, energy performance is in the details

Guest post from Energy Trust of Oregon

See the benefits of energy-efficient homes at this year’s virtual Central Oregon Green Tour. Energy experts and homeowners will give you the insider’s scoop and lead video tours of EPSTM rated homes built for quality, comfort and efficiency. Brought to you by Energy Trust of Oregon, EPS is an energy performance score that shows the energy impact of a newly built home and how much it costs to operate.

With EPS, you can compare homes based on efficiency and find which ones offer superior comfort and savings. Qualified homes are built to be at least 10 percent more energy efficient than required by current building codes. When you buy a home with an EPS, you know you’re getting a higher level of performance.

“They all have better insulation, they’re properly sealed, they have highly efficient HVAC systems and windows, so there’s improved efficiency and energy-cost savings,” says Scott Leonard, a program manager with Energy Trust. “But the overall advantage of these homes is a higher level of comfort that you don’t get otherwise.”

The benefits don’t stop there. Leonard notes that EPS rated homes deliver health advantages as well: “Requiring fresh air systems in EPS homes creates a healthier living environment for everyone in the home.”

The Central Oregon Green Tour is a great opportunity to learn about the benefits of EPS. Here’s a closer look at some of the key attributes you’ll find in EPS rated homes during this year’s virtual tour:

  1. An energy score that includes estimated utility costs, so you know what to expect before you buy.
  2. Energy-saving lighting and efficient built-in appliances such as dishwashers and water heaters.
  3. High-performance windows that help to deflect heat in the summer and retain it in the winter, with well-sealed window frames that make for a quieter home.
  4. Special framing techniques that allow for extra insulation join forces with energy-efficient heating and cooling equipment to enhance comfort, improve indoor air quality and lower utility bills.
  5. Tight construction helps prevent unwanted pollutants and drafts. Plus, mechanical ventilation systems bring fresh air into the home for healthier indoor air quality.

An EPS home can save you money and energy for years to come, so be sure to ask about EPS during the virtual event, and remember to bring it up with your builder or real estate agent as your home search continues. For more information on how EPS can help you find a better-built home, visit www.energytrust.org/eps.

Get involved with Bend’s climate future

The City of Bend is actively recruiting nine positions for the Environment and Climate Committee (ECC) until July 31, 2020.

During the June 17th, 2020 City Council meeting, Bend City Council voted to establish the Environment and Climate Committee. The committee’s primary focus is to provide input and recommendations to the City Council on topics related to environmental stewardship and to oversee implementation of the Community Climate Action Plan, adopted in December 2019.

This committee is a big deal! The ECC will help the City of Bend establish direction and implement sustainability goals and will help shape the future livability of our community. 

Committee expertise

The City is seeking individuals who have experience or expertise, professional or lived, in the following or other related subject matters: energy efficiency, renewable energy, energy efficient building, environmental justice, equity in environmental stewardship and sustainability, alternative transportation and mobility, energy policy, environmental policy, forestry, water resources, ecology, other life sciences, carbon emission reduction, and other related areas. They seek inclusive membership of diverse and varied perspectives and experiences.

This committee will help fulfill current and future Council goals and projects related to environmental stewardship, and provide a resource to Council when relevant community issues arise. The ECC will:

  • Develop recommendations and build partnerships to advance implementation of the Community Climate Action Plan;
  • Provide input in the City’s review and development of plans, ordinances, actions, and policies as relevant
  • Provide advisory input to the City Council during Council goal setting and budgeting processes; and
  • Provide input on adopted Council goals as they relate to natural resources and the environment.

Commitment

This will be a permanent City committee just like the Bend Economic Development Advisory Board (BEDAB) or the Affordable Housing Committee, among others. Nine members will be appointed to the Environment and Climate Committee with initial terms being two or four years so that the committee doesn’t replace all of its members at once. Subsequent terms will be four years. 

Committee members will be expected to actively participate in monthly meetings, generally 1.5 – 2 hours. Committee members will determine the regular schedule that works best for the members.

Application

The Advisory Committee application is available at bendoregon.gov/committees. Applications are accepted until 5 p.m. on Friday, July 31, 2020. 

For questions on serving on the Environment and Climate Committee, please contact Cassie Lacy at 541-323-8587 or .  

Information about the committee is available at bendoregon.gov/sustainability.

5 ways to save energy in your kitchen while quarantined

Don’t let social distancing get the best of your energy budget! These are some tried-and-true ways to save energy that are extra relevant while you’re quarantined at home. Whether it’s just you or your whole family, there are a lot more meals happening in our own kitchens than ever before.

1. Use your dishwasher.

We are using WAY MORE dishes at our house right now. Using a dishwasher instead of washing by hand reduces greenhouse gas emissions by more than 50%. This can be a heated debate in many families so if you want a bit more info, you can get a summary of a recent study in this story.

2. Scrape. Don’t pre-rinse your dishes.

Now that we’re using the dishwasher more often, let’s do it right.  Rinsing your dishes uses more water and energy—enough to really add up over the lifetime of your dishwasher. Not rinsing can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 3%.  Modern dishwashers and detergents are meant to attach to the little bits of food left on the dishes to work properly.

3. Turn off the dry cycle on your dishwasher.

Now that you’re using your dishwasher, let’s take it one step further and make this action save even more energy. Turning off the dry cycle on your dishwasher alone can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 11%. We just open up the door, pull out the racks and let them air dry (after our toddler has gone to bed otherwise the clean dishes end up all over the living room floor).

4. Cook smart.

This could probably be a post all on its own, but here are a few of my personal favorites:

    • Get creative and try to use the oven for a few things while it’s on or even use the same pot! If I have managed to plan ahead, I roast veggies for tomorrow’s recipe while making dinner tonight. I love this butternut squash macaroni and cheese recipe that has you boil some veggies in the same water that you then make your pasta in.
    • Turn off the burner or the oven a few minutes early. This obviously won’t work for all recipes, but those few minutes per session really start to add up over the course of a month.
    • Only boil as much water as you need. Your habits can be as important in reducing the amount of energy used to boil water as what device you’re using to do the task. So when you’re going to make that next cup of tea, make sure you only boil enough to go in your mug.

5. Turn down your water heater.

You’re washing your hands more than you ever have in your life, making more meals in your kitchen than you ever dreamed possible (we know your dishes are going in the dishwasher, but you still have lots of other odds and ends!), and hiding away in the steamy shower to escape your kids and partners for a few minutes. All-in-all, you’re probably using a ton of hot water right now. Make sure that you’re not making your water heater work overtime with settings that are too high. 120 degrees is the recommended temperature. The higher the temperature of the water in the tank, the greater difference with the surrounding temperature, and thus, the greater the heat loss. You can Google specific instructions for your water heater. Or you can find general YouTube tutorials for electric waters here and gas water heaters here.

 

Going Solar in 2020

New pots of money mean growing opportunities for solar access

In 2020, just about everything we knew about solar incentives has been shaken up. Here’s a quick overview of what is happening on the solar coaster this year.


Oregon Solar and Solar + Storage Rebate Program

HB 2618​ (2019) created a new solar and solar plus storage rebate program at the Oregon Department of Energy which launched in 2020. The program issues rebates for solar electric systems and paired solar + storage systems for residential customers and low-income service providers in Oregon.​

There are three separate tracks for this program: residential, low-moderate income residential, and low-income service providers. See below for definitions.

Rebate Amount
  1. Residential Projects
    • Up to 40% of the net cost, capped at $5,000 for solar, and $2,500 for energy storage
  2. Residential Low-Moderate Income Projects
    • Up to 60% of net cost, capped at $5,000 and $2,500 for energy storage.
  3. Low-Income Service Providers
    • Low-income service providers: Up to 50% of net cost, capped at $30,000 for solar, and $15,000 for energy storage
To Qualify
  1. Installed on real property in Oregon
  2. Installed by an ODOE-approved contractor
  3. Solar + storage systems must be purchased together by the same approved contractor
  4. Total Solar Resource Fraction of 75% or greater (your contractor will approve this)
Definitions

Residential Low-Moderate Income Projects: The owner of the property is eligible for one or more income-limited programs offered by state or local public agencies or nonprofit organization’s. ODOE will verify eligibility with the administering agencies upon receipt of the application

Low-Income Service Providers. Organizations eligible as “low-income service providers” include:

  1. Developers/owners of affordable multifamily housing that are eligible for public assistance administered by Oregon Housing & Community Services;
  2. A community service organization (public, tribal, or a 501(c) nonprofit) whose primary purpose is to offer health, dental, social, financial, energy conservation, or other assistive services to households below 100% of the state median income by household size;
  3. A tribal or local government entity, such as a city, county, or school district that uses public buildings to provide services to low- or moderate-income individuals, or to provide emergency shelter and/or communications in disaster situations.

Energy Trust of Oregon

Energy Trust of Oregon provides a cash incentive through qualified trade allies to utility customers of Pacific Power and PGE. There are two separate tracks for Energy Trust incentives.

Cash incentive amount
  1. Standard
    • $0.30/W up to $2,400
  2. Solar Within Reach
    • $1.50/W up to $9,000
To Qualify
  1. Installed by an Energy Trust of Oregon Trade Ally
  2. Total Solar Resource Fraction of 75% or greater
  3. See below for Solar Within Reach eligibility criteria
Definitions

Solar Within Reach: You must own a single-family home, manufactured home, floating home, condo or multifamily residence that is either an attached side-by-side unit or a duplex, triplex or fourplex. You must also meet Energy Trust’s income qualifications listed below.


Federal Tax Credit

Also known as the Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC).

Tax Credit Amount
  • 26% of the net cost (after ETO and state rebate, if applicable)
To Qualify
  • You must have a federal tax liability
  • System must be installed by December 31st, 2020 (then it drops to 22%)

What does this mean for a low-moderate-income household?

+ Up to $5,000 incentive from state rebate

+ Up to $9,000 cash incentive from Energy Trust of Oregon

$14,000 off a solar installation (+Federal Tax Credit, if applicable)

Help Defend Solar Energy: Extend the Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC)

Why?

Solar energy is the most impactful renewable technology we have to invest in local communities and address climate change. The solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) is one of the most successful bipartisan clean energy policies ever passed and has helped build a robust solar industry in the United States. It also enjoys overwhelming public support, with 89% of Americans favoring an extension.

According to the Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA) 2019 Solar ITC Impact Analysis, over the next 10 years, the ITC will bring additional deployment of solar, decrease carbon emissions and increase the number of solar jobs and economic investment.

  • With an ITC extension, annual investment in solar would reach $41 billion by 2030, more than 141% greater than the $17 billion invested in 2018.
  • An ITC extension would offset an additional 363 million metric tons of CO2 emissions over the next 10 years, equivalent to 21% of all emissions from U.S. electricity generation in 2018.
  • By 2030, annual offsets will be equivalent to taking 77 million cars off the road or eliminating the emissions from 93 coal plants.
  • The 82 GW of additional capacity spurred from an ITC extension is enough to power more than 15 million American homes.

When:

We need to take action right now. Despite its success, the ITC is currently scheduled to begin phasing out at the end of 2019, with the first step-down to 26% (tax credit covering project costs) happening in 2020.

What:

Urge your federal representatives to ensure the solar ITC is extended before the end of the year. 

Take action today

Local Realtors share their take on the Home Energy Score

Proposed Mandate Will Shine a Light on Home Energy Use

Submitted by: Abbie + Rick Sams, licensed brokers, Team Sams at Fred Real Estate Group

The City of Bend’s Climate Action Steering Committee has been diligently working on the Community Climate Action Plan, CCAP, which will help guide the City and the community in pursuit of the goals to reduce fossil fuel use by 40 percent by the year 2030 and by 70 percent by the year 2050.

A mandate of the CCAP is to implement a Home Energy Score, HES, program that would require every home that goes on the market to provide a home energy assessment and score which is based on energy use and efficiency. The scoring system was developed in national laboratories by the US Department of Energy, DOE, and is described by the DOE as “an easy-to-produce rating designed to help homeowners and homebuyers gain useful information about a home’s energy performance.” The Home Energy Score uses a simple 1-to-10 scale, where 10 represents the most energy efficient homes.

Some concerns about requiring a mandatory score have arisen and include high assessment costs, unreliable test data, long turn-around times disrupting real estate sales and lack of qualified assessors in our area. These concerns deserve some clarification. In cities such as Portland, Oregon and Austin, Texas where this mandate has already been implemented, they’re finding that home inspectors can easily become certified and many individuals have seen this as an opportunity to create new jobs. In Portland where the number of HES assessors has increased the costs of
the audit has been driven down to on average $150 to $175. Concerning the burden of extra costs for sellers, HES exemptions are available to homeowners who are experiencing financial hardships. The in-home assessment can be completed in an hour and turnaround time for results is short and can often be received the same day. Since the score must be completed prior to the home being listed for sale, there is no disruption to the closing process or timeline. The score provides tangible results based on objective data collection which isn’t dependent on weather conditions or temperatures and any human error mistakes are limited due to quality control checkpoints within the software.

Consumers are already accustomed to seeing nutritional information labels on their food, the yellow Energy Guide on appliances and MPG and emissions identified on new vehicles. These labels allow consumers to understand what is in a product and how the product will perform. The HES scorecard provides a snapshot of the home’s current energy performance and allows a home buyer to understand how efficient the home is while also highlighting recommendations on how to cost-effectively improve a home’s energy score and lower home energy costs. The seller is never required to complete any upgrades to their home but for consumers this energy disclosure will provide transparency and easily understood data, protecting the buyers “Right to Know” and helping them make an even more informed decision with their home purchase and a direct, realistic comparison between homes.

Mandatory transparency, not mandatory change

Local Realtors share their take on the Home Energy Score

Submitted by: Mike Tucker, licensed broker 

My name is Mike Tucker. I’m a real estate broker with Windemere Real Estate. I’ve been working in the Central Oregon market for 5 years. I participated in the Working Groups that the Climate Action Steering Committee used to solicit feedback from stakeholders and community members. I am also an Earth Advantage advisor at the state level and have spoken personally with the Portland City staff who oversee the mandatory home scoring program. 

I support the Climate Action Plan as it was submitted, and especially the creation of a mandatory Home Energy Score Program.

There is a problem though. A problem I haven’t heard either side of this issue mention. The home energy improvements we are hoping builders and homeowners will implement are largely hidden from view and home features hidden from view are difficult to place a value on. Unlike granite countertops, performance upgrades aren’t seen to by home buyers. This is a market-wide problem and until recently energy upgrades have been challenging to measure and price. Not only are hidden upgrades difficult for Realtors and Appraisers to value they are challenging for us to understand. If these upgrades cannot be valued by agents and buyers, builders and homeowners are not going to be reimbursed for these improvements.

The good news is that technology is allowing us to see and measure home performance in ways we couldn’t just a few years ago. This technology enables us to quantify home performance. If we can measure and compare it we can place value on it. “Home performance” is now just as important as granite countertops and square footage . . . and just as important, the technology to measure home performance is inexpensive, reliable and very easy to apply.

I’m a capitalist and have always appreciated the saying “if you want less of something tax it, if you want more of something incentivize it.” I tend to lean towards less government regulation. But I also see the need to reduce energy consumption, take easy steps towards efficiency, and work together as a community to achieve greater impact. 

Buyers don’t want to purchase inefficient homes. They regularly ask me who the better builders are. But currently, there is no easy way for me to show them this. We have no market system that measures and evaluates performance in a meaningful and comparable way, allowing buyers to make an educated purchase. Home scoring prior to sale, when it’s most useful to the buying decision, allows buyers to include home performance in their purchase. This is the step that puts a price tag on energy efficiency and creates the market. 

Today, without a transparent marketplace, if a client looking to sell their home said they had $5,000 to invest in the home before listing it, I would never suggest they invest this money in energy performance upgrades because these investments cannot be easily seen and recouped. I would suggest classic improvement like countertops, paint, and flooring because these upgrades can be seen, valued, and recouped. If a mandatory energy scoring program were in place, energy investments would be highlighted in an easy to understand report created by a professional. This report (with a simple to understand home energy score) brings out hidden investments and presents them in a way that is easy to compare and put a price tag on. A mandatory system will create a marketplace where energy performance investments are spotlighted, compared and valued, allowing them to be recouped and incentivized. Mandatory scoring creates a market place. This market place is the key to incentivizing builders and homeowners voluntarily to make energy improvements because they can recoup their investments.

Without a marketplace, when we suggest builders make improvements the market cannot easily put a price tag on, we are asking them to take a financial risk. To reduce the builders’ financial risk and improve market standards, we can take one of two paths. 1) We can mandate a building code increase. Guaranteeing all homes improve at roughly the same price and speed, leveling the risk. 2) Or we can create a market where a builder taking a financial risk on an energy efficient upgrade, will likely multiply their investment because it’s measurable and valued. A transparent marketplace supports these investments and also creates the opportunity for innovators and leaders to be incentivized for their risk. Likewise, poor builders will be penalized by the market place for failing to innovate.

You are considering a third option – asking a builder to take risk inside a marketplace that cannot value and compare the financial upgrade they are investing in. Without market support builders are less likely to see a positive outcome – and we are setting ourselves up for failure and a market that will only innovative if we regulate it. An option I do not want to see!!

The Home Energy Scoring Program creates mandatory transparency, not mandatory change or improvements. It creates a marketplace where Home Performance is measured, compared, and valued. This value incentivizes improvements voluntarily. It is not a tax or regulation. 

Mandatory scoring creates a market system where builders can be rewarded for leadership and innovation. The opposite of this approach is to create regulations and new codes to force the bottom of the market to catch up. Mandatory performance scoring, prior to sale, creates a new market that incentivizes and rewards those who build better. 

However, asking builders to make improvements without creating a system that supports their efforts and investment, leaves them exposed and vulnerable to loss. Mandatory transparency creates a market that supports risk and innovation instead of masking weak products. 

The best part of a mandatory transparency program is these cash incentives will be paid by buyers who want these products, who now own better homes, and have more valuable investments… not by taxpayers.

If you want to see change, incentivize it – don’t regulate it. Let’s use the Home Energy Scoring Program which provides transparency, to create a market that voluntarily encourages innovation and energy efficiency and where builders are financially rewarded for leading the way in energy efficiency.

 

Mike Tucker / Residential & Investment Specialist

503-939-6155 mobile

Licensed Broker in the State of Oregon

Earth Advantage Broker / GREEN

 

Why Bend needs a Home Energy Score

Here at The Environmental Center, we care about the environment, climate change, and affordable housing. And we think the Home Energy Score needs to be part of Bend’s Community Climate Action Plan.

First of all, the low-down on what exactly we are talking about. A Home Energy Score (HES) program would require a home to obtain a HES before it is listed for sale. The seller would pay an estimated cost of $150-250 to get a HES. Keep in mind that many sellers are also buyers. So they are paying this cost once for their home, and then getting the same information for every other home that they view—which for some people can be anywhere from 5 to 20+ homes.

And to get to the heart of the issue—why is the Home Energy Score so important? From the climate perspective, a HES program addresses residential energy use, the biggest source of sector-based emissions, according to Bend’s Community Greenhouse Gas Emission Inventory. It is a strategy that has a proven track record of success in cities such as Austin, Texas which has had a mandatory disclosure ordinance for 10 years. It has a relatively high cumulative emissions reduction potential because it introduces information and resources that are critical for buyers and renters alike to take action on their energy use.

Buyers need to be presented with energy information early in the home buying process so that they can actually use this information to inform their decisions (rather than after an expensive home inspection when it’s too late in the process–not to mention the fact that a home inspection doesn’t give you adequate information to figure out what your energy costs will be).  If a home has low score, they are not required to fix it before listing it for sale (can you imagine the pushback if that were the case?!). It will, however, give someone looking at that home a heads up on what they can expect their energy costs to be and a list of potential improvements they could make so they can factor those costs appropriately into their buying decision. Some homes with a lower score, with a few energy upgrades, may still cost less than a home with a higher score that is already pretty energy efficient. Without knowing what energy improvements make sense for all the homes they are considering, the average homebuyer would never be able to weigh all those variables to figure out which is the better deal with just information from a call the utility companies (just getting historical utility bills does not give you an apples to apples comparison between homes is  because so much depends on occupant behavior and the number living in a home). Additionally, when you have the energy information up-front, you can integrate it into financing products to help you make improvements that could save you hundreds of dollars a year. And as more data is collected about home performance and the savings associated with energy improvements, even better financing products can be developed.

Taking action on energy use goes so far beyond just a climate discussion. A rent or mortgage payment is not the only factor that determines a family’s monthly housing costs and housing affordability. Energy bills are too significant of a cost to be left out of the conversation. So if we are really going to dig into this issue, we need to address the fact that 15-29% or Deschutes County residents are energy burdened (Oregon Department of Energy’s 2018 Biennial Energy Report ). A household is considered energy burdened when their expenditures exceed 6% of their income. Energy burden is a real problem in our community and the HES is one tool that can help us start to understand the problem and potential solutions, while also helping people avoid getting into a housing situation that they can’t afford.

Right now, we know that information on how to reduce energy use—or even information that paying $300+ for energy costs is not normal—is not getting into the hands of the people who need it. This program gets energy information out in the open so that we can start to use it as our new lexicon for how we talk about our homes.

Let’s have real conversations about our homes and how these spaces impact the occupants – and move beyond talking about square footage and countertops.

Do you care about the Home Energy Score? Share your comments directly with City Council through this portal developed by Oregon League of Conservation Voters. 

Welcome to your new energy efficient home

Common misconceptions about the Home Energy Score

For more background on what the Home Energy Score is, visit our previous blog post What is the Home Energy Score and why is it in the CCAP?

Why Home Energy Scores?

The Oregon Department of Energy’s 2018 Biennial Energy Report took a deep dive into energy consumers in our state. Unfortunately, Oregon continues to see challenges faced by energy-burdened consumers. An Oregonian is considered “energy burdened” when their household’s energy-related expenditures exceed 6% of their income. In Deschutes County, 15-29% of residents earning 200% or below the Federal Poverty Level are energy burdened. Home energy scores can help consumers better understand a home’s energy efficiency, and identify simple home improvements that can mean big savings for their energy bills. (Taken from Oregon Department of Energy website).

Despite there being an obvious need for more awareness about energy use and energy efficient housing options, there has been a lot push-back on the proposal for a Home Energy Score policy for Bend. There are a lot of common misconceptions about the program–here are a few common concerns we’ve heard about HES. 

Homebuyers aren’t asking for HES. They don’t think this is important.

Just because buyers aren’t currently asking for this, doesn’t mean they don’t care—it means that they just don’t know about it yet. Considering energy use in the lifetime costs of homeownership has historically not been something that has been considered when buying a home. This is an important piece of the conversation of homeownership that has been missing that has left many in Bend searching for solutions to reduce $500/month winter energy bills. For those that do appropriately factor energy costs into their budget, think of the extra buying power that homebuyers could have when utility bills are reduced by hundreds of dollars each month.

Requiring an HES slows down the home-selling/buying process.

There is no evidence that energy disclosure disrupts the sale process. In Austin, where home energy audits have been required for ten years, realtors say the policy has not harmed the market in any discernible way. These types of policies usually require that a HES is required at the time of listing, not at the time of sale so it does not slow down the closing process. The actual audit to get a score takes about 1 hour. Timing to generate the report will vary depending on the assessor and could take a few days—this will be important ask when you are scheduling the assessment so you choose your assessor accordingly.

There aren’t enough assessors to do the work

It is true that there currently only a handful of businesses in Bend that could perform the audit to give a home an HES. However, it is something that home inspectors can easily get training in and expand what they offer for services. There are also currently businesses that verify buildings for new construction energy efficiency programs that could easily perform HES assessments on existing homes and many will be required to be trained in HES to be in compliance with the programs they currently work with. In Portland, new businesses have formed to meet the rising demand for services.  Earth Advantage has created a “Roadmap” to becoming an assessor that outlines the process for becoming approved to issue HES.

Energy audits are expensive

There are varying levels of information that can be collected during an energy audit or energy assessment. It is estimated to take about 1 hour to collect the 40 points of data that are needed to generate a score. It is estimated that the cost of an HES audit will be about $200, and we expect the price to go down after HES goes into effect. In Austin, where audits are required, the cost of an audit quickly fell to $125 as demand for audits rose. In the Portland market, audits are averaging about $150.

HES makes housing unaffordable

  • Knowledge is power, and home energy scores give home buyers more knowledge about the costs of operating the home they are buying. Energy costs can be a substantial monthly expense, especially for low-income households. You wouldn’t buy a car without knowing the miles per gallon. HES puts homebuyers in the drivers’ seat by revealing the full costs of home ownership.
  • Without HES, home energy performance remains hidden from both sellers and buyers – which doesn’t benefit anyone. Hiding home energy information certainly won’t make housing more affordable and isn’t smart policy. In fact, we think this “heads in the sand” approach is especially harmful to lower-income homebuyers, who stand to benefit the most from greater knowledge about the costs of home ownership.
  • The vast majority of home sellers will be able to afford the cost of a home energy audit. For those that cannot, the City will work identify ways to cover the upfront cost of the assessment.
  • HES’s benefits to all homebuyers, and to the community’s climate action goals, far outweigh any risks. For the small number of home sellers that may have difficulty complying with HES, exemptions and assistance programs can be developed to alleviate the hardship for those residents. On the whole, HES has substantial benefits to homebuyers and to the community as a whole.
  • Housing affordability is primarily a function of supply and demand. Bend faces a supply shortage. Home energy scores are information policy that do not affect the supply of housing.
  • In harder economic times, HES will have even more benefit to homebuyers. When times are tough, it is more important to understand the full cost of owning a home.

The Home Energy Score unfairly impacts poor people who may own sub-standard housing and their homes will be worth less on the open market

  • It’s not true that all lower-income homeowners will receive lower home energy scores. Home energy scores take many factors into account, including home size and total energy use. In fact, it’s bigger, luxury homes with high energy consumption (think hot tub and air conditioning!) that are likely to receive lower scores.
  • Getting a home energy score will help lower-income borrowers access special mortgage products, helping them finance energy efficiency improvements. The scoring tool we propose to use (US DOE’s Home Energy Score) gives low-income borrowers access to special home energy loans, that will help them improve their home’s energy performance.
    The Bend real estate market is enjoying unprecedented appreciation. Low-income homeowners have benefited from this too.

These kinds of carbon policies don’t really lower emissions

  • The policy addresses residential energy use, the biggest source of sector-based emissions in Bend, according to the Community Greenhouse Gas Emission Inventory.
  • This policy introduces information that is critical for buyers and renters alike to take action on their energy use. We don’t know what we don’t know and with currently energy consumption and costs masked, most residents have no idea that there is room for improvement in their home.
  • This is a long game. This is market transformation that uses a market solution, not a prescriptive regulatory one (we aren’t requiring that energy efficiency improvements be made—just that the information is supplied). It won’t happen overnight, but it will accelerate voluntary energy efficiency upgrades in the residential market over time.
  • Early indications from other communities that have scoring policies are that upgrades do follow disclosure. In Austin, as a result of energy disclosures, six percent of homes undertook energy upgrades. Commercial disclosure policies in NYC and SF are starting to show reductions in energy consumption.

If you think Bend needs a Home Energy Score policy, we encourage you to tell City Council that you think it should be included in the plan. Learn more about writing to City Council and giving public comment at a meeting here.