WVXU: UC study shows disparity in energy bills

Cincinnati Edition talks to UC assistant professor Amanda Webb

WVXU's Cincinnati Edition spoke with a University of Cincinnati professor about her study that identified disparities in energy efficiency among the city's multifamily rental market.

Unlike homeowners, renters are at the mercy of landlords to make improvements that could save money on monthly energy bills. Uninsulated walls, drafty windows or old HVAC systems can result in uncomfortable living spaces and high utility bills, which can place a disproportionate financial burden on tenants.

Amanda Webb

Amanda Webb.

Amanda Webb, an assistant professor of architectural engineering in UC’s College of Engineering and Applied Science, discovered inequities while taking stock of the city’s multifamily homes.

UC published its findings in a research report titled “Understanding Cincinnati’s multifamily housing stock.” Using data from Hamilton County, Duke Energy, the U.S. Census Bureau and the Cincinnati Area Geographic Information System, Webb and UC graduate research assistant David Moore identified neighborhoods in Cincinnati that had a disproportionately high energy burden ratio compared to the rest of the city. These neighborhoods included Winton Hills, Mount Airy and South Cumminsville.

In some cases, UC found, residents are paying as much as 20 percent of their income on energy bills. The data also shows buildings with the highest energy cost per square foot. 

“People’s energy burden is not made equal across the city and that is, in part, due to the inefficiency of our housing stock,” Webb said. “And that’s simply not fair.”

With its analysis, UC gave policymakers a new tool to identify where to focus assistance programs through the support of the Energy Foundation, which funded the study as part of the Bloomberg Philanthropies American Cities Climate Challenge grant.

“Understanding the history and understanding these trends is the next critical step toward being able to make better policy,” Webb said.

Listen to the Cincinnati Edition episode.

A map of Cincinnati shows the neighborhoods with the highest energy burden.

UC identified neighborhoods with the greatest energy burden ratio. Graphic/UC