In Bend, Ore., as in so much of the country, the median home price is significantly outpacing income growth. So, while the Central Oregon Association of REALTORS® (COAR) commended the city for developing a Community Climate Action Plan, it had to draw the line at a proposed Mandatory Home Energy Score Program that was sure to increase home costs even more, as well as add complexity and potentially delay transactions. A timely Call for Action (CFA) put together by the REALTOR® Party’s Advocacy Everywhere program helped convince the City Council to remove the word ‘required’ from the plan.
The REALTORS® aren’t opposed to home energy scores, explains Tyler Neese, Government Affairs Director of the 2,000-member association, a majority of whose members live and work in Bend; in fact, they recognize that home energy audits are a valuable tool. But the Climate Action Plan was supposed to create voluntary initiatives incentivizing residents and businesses to take climate-friendly steps with their properties, not mandate them. “This was the only aspect of the proposed plan that we took issue with, and only because it wasn’t voluntary,” says Neese, who adds that since there is only one firm in town providing home energy audit services, the mandate wouldn’t even have been immediately practical. Conducting a brief survey of its members, COAR confirmed that nearly 95% did not support the mandatory nature of the proposed program. Armed with this information, as well as comments and stories from the REALTORS®, the association sent a letter to the City Council outlining its concerns and advocating for a voluntary Home Energy Score program.
“The Call for Action helped us amplify our voice, and made sure it was heard by the Council,” reports Neese. Reaching members via text and email, the messaging connected voters to their City Council members. REALTORS® also encouraged their clients to engage on the issue via a grassroots consumer campaign launched by concerned residents called ‘Affordable Bend.’
Neese explains that since COAR was working on the issue from a number of angles, and watching to see if these would be effective before launching a CFA, the REALTOR® Party team actually put it all together with very short notice. “They were amazing: quick to respond, and developed a well-designed program in no time. To other associations contemplating a Call for Action, I’d say, ‘Don’t be afraid to utilize the tools at your disposal!’” says Neese.
“Our efforts have positioned our association well,” he adds. “We clearly stood up for homeowners, and at the same time, we were very supportive of the city, and commended it for its commitment to reduce greenhouse gases. Our position was, ‘Let’s focus on incentives, rather than mandates.’”
They were careful not to push back entirely, he continues, instead, taking positive steps like offering to help develop a voluntary Home Energy Score program, and seeking to be involved in education efforts. “In the end, some of the environmental groups advocating for a mandatory program said that they appreciated the way we approached the issue,” says Neese. “I think we gained their respect.”
To learn more about how the Central Oregon Association of REALTORS® is protecting the rights of property owners in the city of Bend, contact Government Affairs Director Tyler Neese, at 541-382-6027.
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