Cash for Caulkers — giving homeowners a tax break or some other means to decrease the cost of energy retrofits — has been getting a bunch of publicity. It’s a great way of creating jobs, and estimates show that $2 billion in loan guarantees could leverage $20-$40 billion in financing. But David Dayen at firedoglake points out a potential stumbling block:
I am in the middle of a remodel on a house, where we are not adding any square footage or changing the footprint of the unit at all. Nevertheless, to receive a permit for this work, and mainly because of an effort to change the house’s windows and exterior doors, we needed signoff from the Department of Transportation, Coastal Commission, Planning, Bureau of Engineering (including paying over $1,300 for a revocable permit which is another story), and the department responsible for the Venice Specific Plan. We are four months into the process and have still not received the permit. Due to local rules, if a homeowner seeks to make any change to any portion of the exterior, whether visible from the street or not, the authorizing agency (in this case the Venice Specific Plan) can demand a series of requirements. Moreover, the other departments involved in the process seem to have no idea what regulations apply and what do not, leading to a confusing set of signals and demands and needs.
More than anything, the point of changing the windows was for purposes of energy efficiency. But triggering the alphabet soup of agencies and adding burdens to our homeowner’s insurance eventually turned us against making those changes. Therefore, local regulatory requirements nudged us away from making energy improvements to the house and spending money we were willing to spend in materials and installation….
An energy retrofit program would be a boon to the economy, would reduce greenhouse gas emissions and could reduce barriers to entry for millions of Americans who would otherwise not see upgrades in their homes or places of business. But it has to be done in concert with a process that ensures such retrofits are accessible and allowable without blockage at the local level.
It’s a good example of how high-level reforms can crash and burn if they aren’t married to a Practitioner’s Perspective.