The pandemic has put more pressure on landlords to install new technologies to create efficiency. This is true across property types, but affordable housing—which has lagged behind in technology adoption—stands to benefit significantly from the usage of new technology. With tenants at home more during the pandemic, utility bills are increasing, but landlords have options. New technologies can help to reduce these costs.
“There are many people working from home, doing distance learning, or are out of work—especially those who were in lower paying service jobs,” Dave Hodgins, executive director of LA Better Buildings Challenge, tells GlobeSt.com. “Overall, lower income individuals and families have been disproportionally impacted by the pandemic crisis. Because they are at home, more energy is needed and subsequently they will have higher utility bills. While it was a crisis before COVID-19 hit, overall, the utility cost burden has become a major issue for even more households.” Hodgins recently hosted the eighth annual tech showcase, which focused on technologies for affordable multifamily residential properties.
The solution to this utility burden on affordable properties it undeniably technology. “Now more than ever, implementing technology and modernizing Los Angeles’ affordable housing stock is critical because it is putting money back in people’s pockets so that they can spend less on utility bills and more on essential necessities,” says Hodgins. “How can a child focus on getting schoolwork done if their parent or guardian doesn’t want to run the air conditioning because it is too costly? While equity was an issue before the crisis, it is even more visible now. All people need access to energy in order to be more comfortable in their homes.”
These technologies not only exist, they are readily available for property owners. “The good news is that the technology already exists and there are incentives out there that can help get the costs down in order to implement it. We aren’t waiting for some technological solution to emerge, it just hasn’t been widely adopted,” says Hodgins. “Ultimately, the whole purpose of LABBC’s Tech Showcase was to show that, in fact, the technology works and has been used in buildings throughout Los Angeles and beyond, which is why we had our fast pitch presentations.”
While these technologies are essential for affordable housing owners following the pandemic, they might also become a requirement in California. “Once things become mandatory, building owners will be looking at penalties, not incentives,” says Hodgins. “Now is the time to understand opportunities and create priorities within a portfolio or building looking at what technologies could benefit the asset and which incentives can come into play. Then it is creating a clear plan with granularity as how to best proceed.”