BEUDO energy performance map - 2019 data
What every Cambridge resident and small business owner needs to be following now!
State regulations require buildings to convert from gas to electrical by 2050. See BEUDO (The Building Energy Use Disclosure Ordinance).
Key members of Cambridge City Council want this conversion to happen more quickly and are pushing for a 2035 net zero date, a decade and a half earlier than Boston. While important in an ideal world, there are huge unintended consequences that will drive up housing costs – dramatically and other unintended consequences which is why important counter voices are being heard on this move by small businesses, commercial property owners, residential property owners, condo owners, and renters alike.
This will also be addressed at an upcoming November 22 meeting of the Council's Long Term Planning Committee and will need a majority of City Council voting in favor to pass.
What is proposed: to require escalated retrofitting by 2035 of all a residential properties with 50 or more units as well as large commercial properties.
Renters and Condo owners will be in for a shock. As one board member noted for a 58-unit 1909 building “each unit in my building will owe $170,352 apiece. I’d pretty much want to know what the City would do with the $10,000,000 from our building alone." These costs will be passed on to local renters - as well as owners if they are living in their own units. During the time when these buildings are upgraded, many residents also will be required to find housing elsewhere. This is important to have in place for new buildings, but This shortened period to prepare is likely to extensively hit lower- and middle-income residents, and those on fixed income. Many will have to leave the city. Significantly, one factor being cited is that BEUDO is “not just about disclosure, mandates as taxation; Linkage as revenue generator w/o regard to incentives and unintended consequences.”
Another likely ramification would be that new buildings include inoperable windows (a risk in this era of COVID and electricity outages) and a call by some that windows be removed from historical preservation criteria.
Ironically the new electric sources and capabilities for this transition are not even available yet, and were we to wait until the state mandates of 2050 likely new technologies (eclipsing those available now) will make the transition far easier and far less expensive. Ironically too, in Cambridge BY FAR the worst offenders (the greatest energy users) are out labs who use a vast majority of this energy resources. Commercial users (especially labs) need to be addressed first and let residential units wait for the 2050 mandate.
Focusing on large labs for an earlier date of compliance makes more sense considering how important current housing needs and pricing are for city residents today. Alas most Cambridge residents have not even heard of this move for existing properties. Another problem at hand, is that each building owners will have to decide on their own how to rush through this change – in some cases it means that people will loose living spaces/porches as individual units are added.
Here is the list of "stakeholders" that the city chose to worked with on this: Abcam; AHA Engineers; Akelius Residential; Alexandria; Atrius Health; Avalon Bay; Biomed Realty; Boston Properties; BrightPower; BR+A; Cambridge Brands; Cambridge Housing Authority; Cambridge Innovation Center; Cambridge Redevelopment Authority; Cambridge Savings Bank; CBRE; City of Boston; Code Green Solutions; Equity Residential; Eversource; Google; Jacobs; Jones Lang Lasalle; Just a Start; Harvard COOP; Harvard University; Homeowners Rehab, Inc; Laverty Lohnes Properties; Leeder Management; Lincoln Property Company; MAPC; Marriott; MassDevelopment; MIT; MITIMCO; New Ecology; Novartis; Partners Healthcare; Upland Capital.
No notice has gone out from the City, that we know of, to individual renters or condo owners living in 40-unit plus buildings that their housing costs are about to rise exponentially and they may have to move for the period that the work is being done.
It is important that we address climate change. But let’s insist that the city focus on what really matters (policies stated in the article at the top of the letter) and labs who use much of our current energy. Let’s also be far more transparent about the proposed changes and their likely impacts on current residents.
This change will impact renters in the city as much as property owners.