C3 research unearths inequities in energy costs among Charlottesville households

Updated: Aug. 2, 2020 at 7:11 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Research from the Community Climate Collaborative (C3) in Charlottesville suggests thousands of households in the city are paying a significant amount of their income on energy costs, sometimes up to 20% of their annual paycheck.

“Thousands of households in the community face an energy burden that’s more than five times the average of Charlottesville,” Caetano de Campos Lopes, a C3 researcher, said.

According to Lopes, Charlottesville residents pay about 2.3% of their income on energy bills, on average, but more than 4,000 house holds in lower-income neighborhoods spend upwards of 10% of their income on energy. Almost 1,000 households spend 20%.

“If we want to make housing affordable for households in our community, energy burden is a key topic, but energy intersects a lot with climate,” Lopes said. “And by reducing energy consumption or providing other cleaner sources of energy for theses households, we’re doing our part so that the city can accomplish it’s very ambitious climate goals.”

The research shows populations that are predominantly non-white, and have lower education and home-ownership levels are more likely to spend an exorbitant amount of their income on energy. The 10th-and-Page and Venable neighborhoods make up over half of households in Charlottesville that spend 10% of their annual income on energy bills. The research also suggests high energy costs may also drive people out of their homes.

“It maps onto an understanding of the neighborhoods right now that are most vulnerable to displacement, the place we’re seeing displacement happen the fastest. And it lets us know what drivers of un-affordability are there, other than simply rent and taxes,” said Laura Goldblatt, a commissioner of the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority.

Lopes is urging the city to invest in renewable energy sources to lower costs, create jobs and reduce emissions, and do so quickly, as temperatures and costs are expected to increase.

“The city should plan to create programs in these neighborhoods, pilot programs, so that they can provide and emulate alleviation for some of these households but also understand what’s really going on with these neighborhoods,” Lopes said.

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