Aspen launches program to help homeowners with energy upgrades |

Aspen launches program to help homeowners with energy upgrades

ASPEN – The city of Aspen has created a cooperative pilot program to streamline the energy-upgrade process for owners selling their affordable-housing units.

In June, the City Council initiated a program in which the city, the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority and the Energy Smart Center would assist homeowners who are planning to sell their housing authority houses with projects that make the homes more energy efficient.

Under the voluntary program, the cost of the energy upgrades will be added to the sales price but likely will result in greater energy savings for the new owner.

In order to make the upgrade process quick, inexpensive and straightforward, the city has instituted the NrgEx Energy Permit Express program. The program provides a checklist of energy-upgrade work that requires a permit, offers a permit fee of $25 and promises that if the permit request is submitted by 10 a.m., it will be processed and issued by 4 p.m. the same day. The flat fee includes the permit and inspections.

“The idea behind this is to streamline the process, help energy raters and homeowners organize their projects around the city’s permitting and inspection requirements and to support the program,” said Stephen Kanipe, chief building official for the city, in a statement. “We see this as a pilot project for the energy-upgrade permit process. If it is successful for affordable-housing projects, we can expand it for anyone in the city who wants to do energy upgrades to their homes.”

Examples of work requiring a permit include air sealing, new or altered insulation or new equipment such as a boiler or water heater.

“We really want to see this program succeed,” said Lauren McDonell, city environmental initiatives program manager, in the same statement. “Hopefully this expedited permitting process will help. This is a win-win for sellers and buyers alike. The sellers can make these upgrades that are attractive to potential buyers, and the buyers will have more comfortable, energy-efficient units and pay less for their energy costs.”

In February and March, McDonell presented the concept of the program to county and city officials. Because the housing authority is run jointly by city and county government, both the Board of County Commissioners and the City Council were required to OK the program.

Depending on the unit size, the cost of the upgrades being passed on to those who are buying units has been estimated at $2,000 or $3,000, an additional cost to a new mortgage or an outright payment, she said at the time.

McDonnell cited statistics showing that 40 percent of energy consumption occurs in buildings, with residences accounting for 55 percent of that amount.

“And I think we can all think of some (housing authority) units that could use some TLC in the energy-efficiency area,” she told City Council members during a March work session.

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