City of Gainesville earns US Department of Energy Award for Innovation

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The use of a national energy-efficiency rating system during inspections required by the City of Gainesville’s new Residential Rental Housing Ordinance has earned recognition from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

The city’s new ordinance, which went into effect Oct. 1, 2021, created a permit and inspection program to raise minimum energy efficiency, safety and property maintenance standards for regulated residential rental units. These units include rented quadruplexes or smaller properties within city limits.

The 2022 Annual Partner Innovation Award from the DOE recognizes the City of Gainesville as its first partner in the nation to include the DOE Home Energy Score™ through an innovative model.

Like the miles-per-gallon rating for a vehicle, the Home Energy Score is a numerical rating from one to 10 that helps homeowners, buyers, and tenants understand how energy-efficient a home or rental unit is and how it compares to other units. The score is based on a unit’s “envelope” – roof, foundation, walls, insulation and windows – as well as its energy systems – heating, cooling, and hot water. The higher the score, the higher a unit’s energy efficiency.

The city’s new energy efficiency standards for attic insulation and access, chimneys, low-flow showerheads, faucets and toilets, among others, must be met in order to earn the score. The score is prepared by city inspectors and given to the property owner who must provide it to tenants.

“With each inspection, we’re working to help raise living standards and ensure minimum – and consistent – housing requirements in Gainesville so neighbors can live safely and securely,” said Andrew Persons, Department of Sustainable Development director. “As rental property owners and managers make improvements, scores will reflect that.”

The Gainesville City Commission also approved of changes, which require regulated rental units to meet minimum standards specified in the International Property Maintenance Code, such as on-site working carbon monoxide detectors and fire extinguishers. Additional protections against anti-discrimination and a rental bill of rights for tenants are among the changes.

“This recognition is greatly appreciated as we continue to find a holistic solution to the increased pressure our neighbors face in the housing market,” said Gainesville City Commissioner Reina Saco. “We are striving to help our neighbors and our planet with smarter choices every day.”

The Home Energy Score also provides renters and property owners with recommendations for improving a unit’s energy efficiency through cost-effective measures to lower energy expenses. Madeline Salzman, DOE Home Energy Score program manager, said rental properties are particularly underserved in terms of efficiency equipment and programs.

“Oftentimes, low-income renters who face high energy burdens have great potential to benefit from efficiency improvements,” said Sazlman. “Home Energy Score can help the City of Gainesville identify energy use trends and opportunities for energy-saving improvements in rental properties.”

As a program partner, the city is required to inspect a minimum of 500 homes per year. More than 440 rental units have been scored to date. The Home Energy Score Partner Awards were recently announced in Nashville at the National Home Performance Conference.

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