Developing standards for rental apartments

group of 10 people of color smiling and standing in front of June Key Delta center
Purpose and background for developing standards for existing apartment buildings. Photo credit: Will Matsuda
On this page

Purpose and background

High energy bills can put a strain on families and lead to difficult trade-offs between paying for energy and other necessities. Households with lower incomes, communities of color, elderly households, renters, and multifamily housing residents tend to have higher energy burdens, on average, than other households. These frontline communities are also least likely to have air conditioning, air-purification systems, or well-insulated homes to protect residents from the effects of heat, smoke, and other toxins.

Reducing rental housing energy use is vital for tackling climate change and addressing justice in the transition away from fossil fuels.

Bold action must be centered around a common understanding that BIPOC, low-income, and other communities on the front lines of climate change and housing challenges deserve targeted support to weather the crises. And government policies, investments, and solutions must center their voices and priorities.

Developing HEART Standards

HEART standards: Health, Equitable Energy, Anti-Displacement, Resilience, Temperature

Since 2019, BPS has collaborated with a community team, Build/Shift: Building Community, Shifting Power (also known as the Build/Shift Collective), to elevate the voices and decision-making power of BIPOC communities. Build/Shift prioritizes improving rental apartments to ensure that low-income, communities of color benefit from climate action.

The result of our collaboration with the Build/Shift Collective is a proposal to establish minimum requirements for existing apartments that address:

  • Healthy housing 
    • Example: Reduce exposure to natural gas stove pollutants to improve indoor air quality.
  • Equitable energy
    • Example: Limit carbon emissions for apartments, condos and commercial buildings by improving energy efficiency or increasing renewable energy supply.
    • Example: Reduce energy cost burden for low-income tenants. 
  • Anti-displacement
    • Example: Prevent risk of displacement when improvements are made.
  • Resilience
    • Example: Make buildings and communities resilient to power outages. 
  • Temperature 
    • Example: Set maximum indoor temperatures for heat wave resilience.

We call these HEART Standards. And our work moving forward will apply these to rental apartments, particularly for low-income and BIPOC Portlanders.

What’s next?

The Bureau of Planning and Sustainability convened stakeholders to help develop climate and health standards for existing buildings in 2022 and 2023. We will continue to convene with key stakeholders in the development of a draft policy.


Vinh Mason

BPS Senior Climate Policy Advisor

Past Events

Available Online