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EnvironmentMaking Constructing Decarbonization Work for LA Renters

Making Constructing Decarbonization Work for LA Renters

Making Constructing Decarbonization Work for LA Renters

A latest UCLA report recommends policies to green existing buildings in a way that protects and supports residential tenants.

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Los Angeles’ ambitious “Green Latest Deal” calls for, amongst other things, eliminating or offsetting constructing emissions and reducing constructing energy use by 44%, each by 2050. That is a powerful and bold goal, and while town has begun restricting some emissions from latest buildings, it remains to be determining learn how to tackle the far tougher task of reducing the emissions and energy use of existing buildings.

The latest policy transient from the Emmett Institute examines the potential impacts such a policy could have on LA’s residential tenants. (The report is inspired by the work of Environmental Law Clinic partner Strategic Actions for a Just Economy.) Individuals who rent their homes deserve special consideration in town’s building-decarbonization policy for several reasons: The majority of LA households rent; renters are disproportionately members of groups which were poorly treated by past housing and environmental policy, including Black, Latino, Asian, Native American, and low-income people; and renters have less control than homeowners over their housing situation and residential environment, since key facets of their lives, from what appliances they will use as to if they will remain of their homes, are sometimes determined by their landlords.

We don’t yet know what town’s building-decarbonization policy will appear like, but any program that meets the Green Latest Deal targets could have potentially immense impacts—good or bad—on LA tenants. For one, major work of the sort that might achieve highly efficient and carbon-neutral buildings can trigger additional rent increases under town’s Rent Stabilization Ordinance, which covers most apartments in town. Those self same retrofits could even result in displacement: either by enabling formal evictions (landlords use government-mandated retrofits to kick out tenants, as seen recently within the Barrington Plaza debacle) or by giving landlords cover to pressure tenants to depart through misinformation or “harassment by construction.” And landlords could have incentive to lift rent or replace tenants with higher-paying ones, due to each the up-front costs of decarbonization work and the increased market value that the newly renovated homes could have.

At the identical time, constructing decarbonization represents an immense opportunity to enhance tenants’ wellbeing. Achieving town’s targets will likely require replacing climate-warming gas appliances with high-efficiency electric ones; improving heating, air-conditioning, and ventilation systems to cut back energy use; and potentially adding on-site electricity generation like rooftop solar. All of those measures could be helpful to tenants that live within the buildings, if done right. The report highlights a number of of those “co-benefits,” though there are numerous more: Appliance switching and increased ventilation can improve indoor air quality, protecting tenant’s health, while energy efficiency and distributed generation can reduce and even eliminate tenants’ energy bills.

Securing these co-benefits—and protecting against potential rent increases and evictions—is simply possible with a fastidiously crafted building-decarbonization program. To this end, the report makes eight specific policy recommendations, intended to be applicable to any path town may take to achieving the Green Latest Deal goals:

  • Prevent the prices of decarbonization retrofits from being passed on to rent-stabilized tenants;
  • ­Eliminate provisions within the Los Angeles Municipal Code that allow landlords to evict tenants to be able to renovate their properties;
  • ­Strengthen enforcement and oversight of existing tenant protections;
  • Make any subsidies to landlords conditional on agreements not to lift rents or evict their tenants;
  • Prioritize retrofits that improve tenants’ health and quality of life, resembling appliance electrification and ventilation improvements;
  • ­Be certain that tenants profit from energy savings from energy-efficiency measures and on-site solar (or other distributed generation);
  • ­Create an oversight body with meaningful tenant representation and real power to guide the City’s decarbonization policy; and
  • ­Promote housing models that may higher protect tenants, resembling publicly owned housing, deeply inexpensive deed-restricted housing, and community land trusts.

What town’s existing-building decarbonization program will ultimately appear like remains to be unclear. Town is reportedly expected to have rules in place for decarbonizing existing buildings in some unspecified time in the future this 12 months, but details are sparse. LA’s Climate Emergency Management Office held a series of workshops in partnership with key area people organizations and leaders, culminating in a report released last 12 months. Town’s Department of Buildings and Safety (DBS) has said it’s working on a plan, and has been instructed by the City Council to report on that plan and its impact on low-income residents, but DBS doesn’t appear to have released any public information yet. Hopefully, that plan will think about the impacts on LA renters and adopt policies like those beneficial on this report.

constructing decarbonization, cities, housing, Los Angeles


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