Alameda County Supervisor David Haubert, whose district includes most of the Tri-Valley, is encouraging owners of multifamily rental housing properties to take advantage of a little-known Bay Area program that offers government rebates to update their buildings with energy and water efficient equipment for their tenants.
During an “Energy Efficiency Incentives Roundtable” on Nov. 16, Haubert and Chris Hunter of the Oakland-based organization, StopWaste, discussed ways landlords can receive help to upgrade and seal windows; buy efficient appliances; replace gas-powered furnaces, water heaters and cooking equipment with electricity-powered instruments; install energy-saving insulation and LED lighting; and more.
“As the name suggests, a lot of the work that we do really revolves around solid waste reduction,” Hunter said. “We do a lot on assisting our cities implement statewide recycling and composting laws, doing educational campaigns around food waste reduction and gardening and lots of great programs in that field. However, what’s less known is that there’s a team of us that works on issues that are more related to green buildings and energy efficiency.”
StopWaste’s staff, Hunter said, implements the Alameda County efforts of the Bay Area Regional Energy Network (BayREN), a coalition of the region’s nine counties that focuses on energy, water and greenhouse gas reduction. StopWaste is a public agency governed by the Alameda County Waste Management Authority, the Alameda County Source Reduction and Recycling Board, and the Energy Council.
“It’s been around for about 10 years,” Hunter said. “The goal of BayREN is to help the state meet its really ambitious climate goals by offering a wide range of energy savings programs and resources.”
Hunter said BayREN has programs for single-family homeowners, multifamily property owners, real estate professionals, contractors and small business owners.
During the last eight years, BayREN has supplied $34 million in rebates to the owners of 600 properties throughout the Bay Area, he said. The money comes from a special surcharge on all PG&E bills that is collected by the state and allocated to programs like BayREN, he said.
After adding rebates for gas to electric conversions in 2020, the program plans to expand in 2023 to address health issues and heat-related concerns. Hunter declined to elaborate.
Those who sign up through the BayREN website will be visited by a free technical consultant who will evaluate the property to assess what options are available. The inspection is free, Hunter said.
“We help you move forward,” he said. “But if you decide that this program isn’t quite the right fit or now is not the right time, there’s no obligation. There’s no penalty for getting started and not completing your project.”
The program’s minimum rebate is $750 per unit, so a 20-unit property would be eligible for $50,000. Rebates, however, can go higher.
“Many properties will actually be eligible for the greater base rebate above the $750,” Hunter said. “It will be based on the zip code that that property resides in.”
The program does have requirements. Properties must have five or more dwelling units on a single parcel. In addition to apartment buildings, the program includes condominiums and their HOAs. Participants must install three or more unique measures that will reduce energy consumption by at least 15%.
“The goals and needs of all these properties can differ,” Hunter said. “We know this has been a really hard time for the rental housing space in the last couple of years, and a lot of owners out there are struggling right now. And so, by making these improvements, I think we can really help lower your utility bills and reduce equipment downtime.”
Owners of properties that don’t have air conditioning also can receive rebates for installing cooling units, he said.
“Having an AC is a major thing that many prospective tenants will be looking for in a property,” Hunter said. “We find that just generally happy residents tend to stay longer in their units. They tend to make fewer complaints and they tend to treat the property with greater care. And so over time, this will mean less vacancy rates and higher quality tenants that result in lower maintenance costs for you.”
Hunter’s colleague, Sheetal Chitnis, who manages BayREN’s Bay Area Multifamily Building Enhancements program for the nonprofit Association for Energy Affordability office in Emeryville, said research has found the program not only lowers energy bills and saves energy, it provides health benefits for residents. Retrofits, she said, can make units more comfortable.
By adding insulation, a tenant might not have to use air conditioning. Sealing windows can keep out smoke from wildfires, she said.
“Not only is it addressing the energy savings, which is great for the bills, but it’s also improving resident health,” Chitnis said.
Hunter added that the time is now to utilize the program as the state begins mandating some changes in the coming years. The California Public Utilities Commission, for example, recently announced that the sale of new gas water heaters and gas furnaces will be banned by the year 2030.
Source : Independent News