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Report: Big Benefits for Energy-Efficient Rental Units

PHOTO: Close to 9 percent of Michigan's housing stock is multifamily rental units, and a new report suggests targeting those buildings for energy-efficiency upgrades would benefit building owners, renters and the environment. Photo credit: gracey/morguefile.com.
PHOTO: Close to 9 percent of Michigan's housing stock is multifamily rental units, and a new report suggests targeting those buildings for energy-efficiency upgrades would benefit building owners, renters and the environment. Photo credit: gracey/morguefile.com.
May 13, 2015

LANSING, Mich. - When it comes to helping Michiganders save money and the environment, a new study finds that making rental units more energy efficient would go a long way.

There are more than 400,000 units of multifamily affordable housing in Michigan, and Michael Bodaken, executive director of the National Housing Trust, said many of them come with inadequate insulation and inefficient windows, heating and cooling systems. As a result, he said, energy expenses run on average 76 percent higher per square foot in these units than in single-family homes.

"We have a problem of very old, inefficient buildings, and people paying much higher utility bills," he said, "and if the population, ages, and wages for working Americans remain stagnant, there is a growing need for multifamily rental housing."

The study from the Energy Efficiency for All initiative looked at eight states including Michigan, and found that implementing a range of energy-efficiency improvements, including upgrading lighting, heating and cooling systems in rental units, could yield $21 billion in savings and a 32 percent reduction in electricity use by 2034.

While some building owners are resistant to the idea of investing the time and money to make these sorts of improvements, study co-author Raya Salter, senior utility advocate for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the potential payoff is big enough for them to reconsider.

"This study estimates that the return on investments made on energy inefficiency would range from $2.90 to $3.50 for every dollar invested in improvements," she said, "so that is extremely significant."

The study suggested that utility companies are in a position to drive these changes, given the rebates and programs they already have in place, as well as their relationship with consumers.

The full report is available online at EnergyEfficiencyForAll.org.

Mona Shand, Public News Service - MI