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Utility Costs

Controlling Utility Costs in your rental home is critical especially if you pay utilities directly
Utility insecurity is a big problem for lower income households.
Most low income households are renter. Renters have fewer ways to reduce consumption and landlords have little incentive to invest in energy savings improvements while tenants are paying the utility bills.

Get Energy Assistance (if you are "low income")
Energy Saving Investments.  If you are paying for utilities, landlord has less incentive to make improvements that reduce utility costs.  Make a deal with your landlord to install utility saving investments like insulation, energy star appliances, window repair and replacement
  • get an audit
  • incentives for owners
Self help energy conservation techniques for tenants

What's news?

February 22, 2018, New York Times How to Save Money and Energy Heating Your Apartment
"Winter heating bills can deliver a big sticker shock, one that continues well into the spring: It cost what to heat your space this month? If that’s happened to you, you’re not alone. And while there’s plenty of information on how homeowners can save on their heating costs through big projects like replacing windows or insulating attics, that’s just not an option for renters. We reached out to the pros to see what free, low-cost, reversible and take-it-with-you changes renters can make in their homes to save on their heating bills — and feel more comfortable, too. Here’s what they told us. (P.S.: Homeowners, you can do all of these things, too!)"                                 posted February 27, 2018

February 13, 2018, City Lab "The Uneven Gains of Energy Efficiency
From the article: "Utility bills are the primary reason why people resort to payday loans, and play an outsized role in the perpetuation of poverty. But the impacts of soaring energy bills go beyond finances. Living in under-heated homes puts occupants at a higher risk of respiratory problems, heart disease, arthritis, and rheumatism, according to ACEEE and EEFA."
Three approaches: use code enforcement and/or rent deposit to get landlords to make repairs. Help tenants with simple self-help remedies like caulking and weather stripping. Don't give up on friendly persuasion-if landlords understand that an investment in weatherization can make it easier for tenants to pay rent, they might cooperate.  posted February 27, 2018

September 21, 2016, CityLab's Laura Bliss is back with another story about low income households dealing with energy costs. Keep in mind that the 30% of income for housing was originally supposed to include the cost basic utilities: cooking, heat, light and water. Over the years, tenants have been trained to believe that's "extra". Bliss makes two points. Lowest income households spend a much higher percentage of income on utilities and households with utility instability suffer psychological damages. 

October 16, 2016 NHC Open House, National Housing Conference working on HUD Energy Efficiency program
Energy benchmarking tracks the utility consumption of a multifamily development, calculating the energy and water efficiency of the development and comparing it to that of similar developments. It can help owners understand their buildings’ energy performance, detect malfunctioning equipment and billing errors, prioritize capital improvements and plan for future budget needs. Under the proposal, HUD will require multifamily building owners to use the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Portfolio Manager, ideally using whole-building data to create each building’s energy baseline. If whole-building data is not available, HUD will accept a sample of tenant utility data combined with owner utility data. 
More on HUD Energy Efficiency plans

Where the Poor Spend More Than 10 Percent of Their Income on Energy

     Next City has a story about "energy poverty"...paying more than 6% of your household income on energy costs. Households that are already poor are most affected. “ 'Of course, energy costs constitute a bigger piece of a low-earning household’s budget. It’s a smaller pie.'  And while that may be true, according to a report this spring by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, the cost of heating or cooling for low-income households is also three times more expensive than for households at other income levels."
     Inside Energy provides an interactive map to show how energy poverty affects localities around the country 
     Keep in mind that "energy poverty" is also a part of "rent burden" since utility costs SHOULD be included in the affordability standard of 30% of household income.  
 posted June 9, 2016

Put Energy costs on your "short list" for a RHINO priority in 2017.

NextCity has a good article on a new study of utility costs for low income renters. From the article, "On average, the highest burdens were concentrated in Southeast and Midwest cities. Memphis, New Orleans, Birmingham, Atlanta and Philadelphia topped the list of cities with the highest energy burdens for low-income and minority households. Cincinnati, Columbus, Dallas, Fort Worth, Hartford, Kansas City, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Providence and St. Louis also made the top 15. Energy inefficiency in housing stock was a large factor determining energy burden. The report found that for low-income and multifamily low-income households, bringing energy efficiency up to that of the median U.S. household would eliminate 35 percent of excess energy burden. For black, Latino and renting households, raising energy efficiency to the median could reduce burdens by 42, 68 and 97 percent, respectively."        
posted April 22, 2016 (aka Earth day)