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Energy Use: The Human Dimension
be expected from individual metering or about the net distribution of costs between owners and residents that is likely to result.
Other programs and policies have also received attention. For example, utilities and commercial groups have developed certification programs (McClelland, 1982) to help building owners advertise energy-efficient buildings to potential renters. In a slack rental market, this may reward the owners of energy-efficient buildings with higher rents or lower vacancy rates. In a suburban area of Atlanta, Georgia, where much new housing is being constructed, virtually all new buildings are receiving certification by Georgia Power, and most are advertising energy efficiency to attract renters.7 Local ordinances have also been proposed to require that buildings be brought up to an energy standard at resale. These ordinances make sense in that enough money for upgrading a building is usually available at the time of resale, but the ordinances are vigorously opposed by real estate interests as an impediment to transactions.
Each of these proposals has some possibilities, but also problems. In the tight rental housing markets of many cities, it may be possible to pass energy costs along to renters with little fear of lower occupancy rates. Where there are rent control ordinances, a pass-through provision is often needed to prevent bankruptcy among building owners and the ment of housing stock. Owners are also frequently constrained by lack of capital, and find energy investments expensive when short-term debt financing costs are included (Office of Technology Assessment, 1982). Most owners of rental housing are small businesses with limited access to cash or credit. In addition, the poor condition of the rental housing industry makes it a poor risk for lenders. And many owners do now expect to recoup energy investments when selling a building (Bleviss, 1980).
It is difficult to generalize because of the extreme diversity in the rental housing industry. Conditions of housing markets and local ordinances vary greatly (Bleviss, 1980), and the behavior of owners varies with their situations. One study (Neels, 1981) found that buildings partly occupied by their owners used about 25 percent less energy than buildings with absentee owners in 1978, and an even greater discrepancy was projected for the future. The same study found that buildings owned by corporations and partnerships used 9 percent less energy than buildings owned by sole proprietors. The differences were attributed to increased expenses for labor and repairs among owner-occupants and to better information among “professional landlords.” The importance of access to capital may also vary greatly—the limited research to date conflicts with regard to the importance of this factor as a barrier to investment.
Diversity presents a problem in another way. There is a great variety in the residential housing stock—especially among multifamily buildings—so accurate information is not available on the energy savings that can be expected from particular investments. Data are scarce, but an evaluation