Mpls. eyes new weapon in fight against climate change: energy disclosures

An apartment building for sale in southwest Minneapolis.
An apartment building for sale in southwest Minneapolis.
Tom Weber | MPR News file

Renters and home buyers in Minneapolis could soon have an idea of what their energy bills would be before they sign anything.

The City Council is expected to pass two ordinance amendments on Friday that would require landlords and sellers disclose energy efficiency information before people commit to buying or renting. The thinking is these rules will help Minneapolis achieve its affordable housing and climate change goals.

Cam Gordon, the Ward 2 council member who's backing the plan, said renters don't get enough information on their prospective utility costs currently, and he hopes more knowledge will help them make better decisions for themselves.

"Our hope is by having this information provided and having both renters and home buyers understand the energy that's going to be used in their buildings, they can take some action to reduce that," said, who co-authored the plan along with Ward 11's Jeremy Schroeder.

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There are three main facets to the energy disclosure measures:

• Rental property owners — who control housing stock for more than half Minneapolis' population — would need to disclose a rental's energy use at the time it's rented.

• Multifamily buildings 50,000 square feet and larger will need to begin reporting their energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, water use and energy performance score.

• Energy efficiency information would be required as part of Truth In Sale of Housing inspections in Minneapolis.

Most work to make homes more energy efficient comes when a property is sold, Gordon said. "This is to give some information where we think it's an opportune moment where people will be thinking about it."

The energy disclosure strategies date back to 2013 when Minneapolis council members included them in the city's Climate Action Plan.

If the ordinance amendments pass the full council on Friday, they'll be phased in over the next few years based on building type and size.

Residential energy disclosure requirements aren't widespread in the U.S., but more than a dozen major cities have adopted them in some form.

Gordon said making public more energy efficiency information is crucial to inform future decision making in Minneapolis.

"This is a really important step and I think it will help us address not only the needs around climate change and looking to the future," he said, "but it could help people have a more affordable living in the near future."