This article was originally published in the January/February 1994 issue of Home Energy Magazine. Some formatting inconsistencies may be evident in older archive content.



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Home Energy Magazine Online January/February 1994




Project Landlord

A small agency in Oregon is enticing landlords to weatherize their properties by making them an offer they can't refuse. The landlords get their properties weatherized at 30% of market cost, and even better, the work costs the agency nothing. Virtually every landlord approached by the agency has participated in the program, which is enabling the agency to expand its other programs despite dwindling federal funding.

Clackamas County Weatherization (CCWX) operates a low-income weatherization program in a small county south of Portland, Oregon. The agency's annual budget (federal funds) is currently about $260,000. In the face of declining funding levels, CCWX developed the pilot program in 1991, using an Oregon Department of Energy grant. The agency recruits landlords of low-income properties to share the cost of weatherizing their properties on a 50/50 basis. The end result is a significant increase in income that has allowed CCWX to expand.

The procedure is simple. Low-income rental properties (both single and multiple) are identified. The agency contacts the landlord, and obtains permission to conduct an audit. After the audit is completed, an estimate of costs for labor and material for each needed measure is made and CCWX meets with the landlord to explain the program. Landlords are informed that two measures are mandatory if they wish to participate on a 50/50 basis--blower door infiltration test and ceiling insulation. All other measures are optional and they are presented as a shopping list the landlords can choose from.

One landlord of a small rental home pleaded poverty when he was approached with the estimate. CCWX told him that they would insulate the ceilings and floors under their federal grant, but that they couldn't justify the recommended replacement windows. The landlord wanted the windows badly, so the agency agreed that if the landlord bought the windows, CCWX would install them for free. The landlord agreed and was amazed to discover the cash outlay was more than his original 50% contribution would have been for all of the measures.

After the landlords make a selection, CCWX draws up a contract. The purchase of materials and work commences upon receipt and clearance of the landlord's check. The landlord's contribution is deposited in an interest-bearing escrow account. At the completion of the job, actual costs are determined, and if the cost is less than the original estimate, a rebate check is issued to the landlord immediately. CCWX pads job estimates by 10% to cover hidden costs, and if the actual cost is more than the estimate, the landlord is not assessed additional funds.

Over two years, 95% of the landlords approached have participated in the program, and they have selected 100% of the measures recommended. More than 250 units have been weatherized. One reason for this remarkable success rate is that the state of Oregon gives a 35% tax credit to landlords for any energy-saving measures installed, based on the landlord's contribution. These tax credits in turn can be sold (for cash) to the local public utility for 29% of their value, an option most landlords exercise.

Since CCWX also receives a 50% rebate from the local electric utility for the work it does, the agency's cost to weatherize these low-income rental properties is nothing. In 1992-93, CCWX realized approximately $180,000 in landlord contributions.

The deal is sweet for the landlords. They get the job done at half price, along with a tax credit. The work enhances their property values, and the tenants are pleased. And because CCWX installs low-flow showerheads, the landlords will save on their water bills, too. CCWX is now considering expanding the program to include heating systems.

-- Tom Autio

Tom Autio is operations manager for the Clackamas County Weatherization Program in Marylhurst, Oregon.


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