Introducing the Resource Center for Renters and Landlords

Meaningful climate action will require our collective effort, but the risks, barriers and needed resources to achieve actions (like buying an EV or conserving energy) are not the same for everyone. There are a lot of differences between what a homeowner can do to their property and the constraints that renters face in making changes to or upgrading their housing. For that matter, it can seem daunting for a landlord to make changes to an income property when they won’t personally see the cost or experienced benefits.

Despite this challenge, supporting both renters and landlords is important to the success of Watertown climate goals. Nearly 48% of Watertown residents are renters, and they represent a wide range of diverse communities. Additionally, rental housing is a big part of the building sector and our local economy. Making rental housing sustainable and resilient will greatly help Watertown achieve our climate and energy goals.

Resilient Watertown has engaged local renters and landlords in the planning process and developed a Resource Center to connect these audiences to useful and actionable tools to support resilient rental housing in Watertown.

Feedback from Watertown Renters and Landlords

We engaged with landlords and renters in two different ways in order to understand their challenges: through surveys with questions designed specifically for each group as well as two virtual focus groups. The feedback has helped shape the plan so far and will continue to be useful during implementation.

Some key findings from our engagement are below. 

  • Walkability was highest priority factor for renters when they consider where they want to live, indicating there’s a lot of interest and value for convenient and safe active transportation options throughout Watertown.
  • Landlords identified financial support as a much needed resource – which is why the resource center will help connect landlords to desired tools and assistance that they may not yet know about.
  • In terms of actions achieved and opportunities, both renters and landlords have already taken some actions to make rental housing more efficient and sustainable, such as installing LED lighting, using programmable thermostats, and fixing leaks. Other more intensive actions are generally achieved less often- things like upgrading insulation, installing heat pumps, and installing rooftop solar.
  • The vision for Watertown shared by these groups included themes of renewable energy, affordable housing, and resilience.

Barriers to action that were discussed include tenant/landlord communication, the split incentive issue, and the fact that much of Watertown’s homes are older housing stock, which means they are starting out less efficient and may have other non-sustainability-related upgrades that need attention.

So what does all this tell us about the path to achieve our climate goals? We will need to assist renters and landlords meaningfully by directing them to existing resources, creating new programs, and providing technical assistance. This resource center is the first step in creating a deeper conversation with renters and landlords and generating more awareness and a sense of empowerment about what can be done.

What is the Resource Center? 

This tool is built for renters and landlords specifically. However, since some programs that would apply to landlords also apply to homeowners, those who own their home may find useful materials on here as well. The database has financial assistance programs, how-to guides, free programs to take advantage of, and more. You can use it when you have an idea for an upgrade you’d like to make, but aren’t sure where to start. Or you can browse by topic and potentially find something you didn’t know existed!

We wanted to make this Resource Center because we know how overwhelming it can be to get started if you don’t know where to look or what programs exist. Now, an amazing array of resources are all in one place, and it will be updated frequently as new resources become available. We also know that improving the efficiency and climate readiness of our existing buildings will greatly help us reach our climate change mitigation and adaptation goals, and will improve the lives of Watertown residents.

Share the Resource Center!

If you’re a Watertown renter or landlord, head to the Resource Center now! If you’re not a renter or landlord, share the Resource Center with those you know to help them find the tools and resources to take climate action in rental housing!

Visit the Resource Center