Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Unfair Burden

According to the 2000 US Census Data, there are 239,528 occupied housing units in the city of Boston. Of those, only 77,226 are owner-occupied. That means over 162,302 housing units are rented representing 67.8% of the units. Why did I look up this data? I had a thought today about energy use in rented homes which made me realize renters are going bear an unfair burden of rising energy costs.

Let me explain my thinking. Most renters are responsible for covering their heating and electricity costs. While the renter incurs the cost of heating and electricity, the unit owner bears the cost of upgrades and maintenance such as new windows, energy efficient refrigerators, and an improved heating system. Here is where I think an unfair burden is placed on renters. The owner of the unit does not have a financial motivation to improve the energy efficiency of the unit as the costs of energy is passed on to the renter.

I started to wonder how many refrigerators purchased in the 1980's are sitting in apartments around Boston. Electricity costs are going to continue to rise and the renter of these apartments are going to bear the cost because the unit owner is not willing to upgrade the appliance.

Putting the financial burden on renters aside, we can also think about this in terms of CO2 emissions. In a city such as Boston that is dominated by rented housing units, we are emitting more CO2 than we should be because unit owners do not have a financial incentive to improve the energy efficiency of the units they own.

I have some advice to graduating Lasell College seniors. As you leave our campus and start looking for your first apartment, think about energy costs. Ask about the age of the windows. Ask about the age of the heating unit. Watch out for apartments heated by electricity. Look at the refrigerator and see if it is energy-star rated. Look for a unit that is energy efficient as it will help the environment and your bottom line. Rent is expensive enough!

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