An ordinance that would require Minneapolis homeowners and landlords to disclose how much energy leaks out of their properties moved closer to enactment Monday.
A City Council committee voted to advance the measure, after scaling back a requirement for an energy efficiency test that some had criticized as overly expensive.
Residents lined up at City Hall on Monday to testify largely in favor the proposal, many lauding it as a step toward combating climate change and creating more transparency on energy-related costs to prospective property buyers and renters.
If passed, the new policy would add an energy test to home inspections, including drilling a 2-inch hole into the walls of a property to measure insulation. Inspectors would also check windows, heating systems and insulation in attics.
These findings would be compiled into an energy report and disclosed to property buyers with a 1 to 100 rating on energy efficiency.
Landlords would be required to give a similar report to prospective renters with an estimated cost per month for electric and heating bills at the time of application.
"I view this as like an Energy Star rating or mile-per-gallon rating on my car. I pay attention to those things. I know other people do," said northeast Minneapolis resident Barb Draper, who urged the council to approve the new regulations in the face of inevitable pushback. "I hope you pass this and stay the course."
Luke Grundman, who advocates for vulnerable tenants as an attorney for Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid, told the council about one of his low-income clients who moved into a property for $200 a month, only be hit with a $500-per-month heating bill come winter. An audit from Xcel Energy found the unit had almost no insulation, Grundman said.
Eric Myers, representing the Minneapolis Area Realtors, spoke against the proposal on behalf of his 8,500 members. Myers said his organization is in favor of making homes more energy efficient, but believes the ordinance focuses too narrowly on homes for sale, which are only a small fraction of Minneapolis properties. He said the energy tests will ultimately lengthen inspection times and create a competitive disadvantage for Minneapolis home sellers.
Council Vice President Andrea Jenkins applauded the effort to reduce carbon emissions, but expressed concern that placing more regulations on landlords will drive up costs to renters. "I just think we have to try to balance those goals with making sure people can actually afford to live in these apartments as well," Jenkins said.
"I think the point is to make sure we can actually live — that we can survive climate change," replied Council Member Jeremy Schroeder, one of the backers of the proposed ordinance. "That's one of the biggest reasons to do this."
The council committee eliminated a previous element of the energy test requiring use of a specialized blower fan, which many lamented would be too expensive and time consuming. The revised proposal passed on a unanimous vote, and now goes to a final vote before the full City Council on Feb. 15.
If passed, the city plans to roll out the energy disclosures for home buyers in 2020, and the reports for renters the following year.
The energy proposals are part of the city's goals to cut emissions 30 percent from 2006 to 2025.