In 2011 the City of Boulder, Colorado enacted its “SmartRegs” ordinances that require all single family and multifamily rental properties to meet a minimum energy efficiency standard by January 2019. The SmartRegs initiative is designed to help the city achieve its ambitious carbon emissions reduction goals and to improve the quality, safety, and marketability of Boulder’s rental housing stock.
The effort involved two years of extensive stakeholder engagement and a sophisticated strategy that included dividing the SmartRegs provisions among three different ordinances to improve the chances that at least some components would be approved. All three ordinances ultimately won community and city council support by including a long (8 year) compliance period, offering financial incentives and technical assistance to building owners, and providing owners with a streamlined prescriptive process for meeting compliance.
One year after the regulations went into effect, the city had handily exceeded its first-year goals of 1,000 units inspected and 500 units achieving compliance. The program is also experiencing an unexpected bonus: some property owners are voluntarily choosing to upgrade beyond the minimum requirements. Given its broad support and successful early rollout, SmartRegs shows promise for overcoming transaction costs and reducing barriers to energy efficiency gains in the residential rental sector.