Columbia aims to make rental property more energy-efficient

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COLUMBIA — With a large percentage of Columbia's housing being rental properties, the city is looking for ways to make housing more energy-efficient.

On Tuesday, the Columbia/Boone County Environment and Energy Commission (EEC) hosted a rental energy efficiency meeting to get feedback from the public on how to best do this.

City members and more than 80 people were split into groups to address three key points: The biggest rental efficiency needs in the community, the barriers to meeting those needs, and possible solutions.

Sustainability Manager Barbara Buffaloe said the Environment and Energy Commission has made recommendations to the Columbia City Council for improving the energy efficiency in rental properties throughout the city.

"Housing in Columbia, 52 percent of it is rental housing," Buffaloe said. "So the Environment and Energy Commission thought improving the rental housing will both help reduce our carbon footprint as well as helping those individuals and families that rent, so that they can save energy on their utility bills."

Buffaloe said residents are concerned with their energy burden, basically the ratio of how much their energy costs compared to their household income.

"The households are spending more on their rent or on their utility bills, spending more of their monthly budget on those," Buffaloe said. 

Columbia Housing Programs Supervisor Randy Cole said in the meeting there were about 4,300 customer disconnections last year due to non-payment. 

The Environment and Energy Commission Chairwoman Jan Dye said a lot of rental properties are occupied by a group of low-income individuals, so reducing energy use is important to help those people who pay high utility bills. 

"If we can come together to find a way and make rental properties more energy-efficient, it's gonna be better for those people who are occupied those residences so be more comfortable, they'll be able to afford the utility payments," Dye said.