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Study Description

The Growing Burden of Residential Heating Costs on Massachusetts Households

Robin Sherman, Jeremy Wolf and Anna Curtis with Michael Goodman, Lindsay Koshgarian and Kate Modzelewski

(July, 2008)

More than 163,000 Mass households will struggle to pay heating oil bills in coming year
Elderly homeowners to bear brunt of burden

A study released today by the UMass Donahue Institute finds that based on average consumption in recent years and the most recent federal energy price forecasts, Massachusetts household spending on home heating oil and natural gas heat can be expected to increase by $927.2 million in 2008 and an additional $469.85 million in 2009, a 2-year total increase of $1.397 billion.

The report suggests that low-income households that heat with oil will be the most severely affected by rising heating costs. The authors conservatively estimate that at least 163,224 Massachusetts households will struggle to pay their heating oil bills in 2009. Homeowners living in single family homes represent over 80 percent of households identified as cost burdened by the analysis.

Approximately two-thirds, or 108,870 of the 163,224 burdened households will experience severe difficulty paying their oil heat bills. Nearly two-thirds, or 69,595 of these severely burdened households are headed by persons over the age of 60, including almost 25,000 households headed by residents who are over the age of 80.

“Massachusetts is facing a true crisis and our analysis sheds light on the magnitude of the problem,” said Robin Sherman, the report’s lead author and a Research Manager at the UMass Donahue Institute. “While the numbers in the report are staggering, it is important to keep in mind that our analysis was focused primarily on homeowners that heat with oil,” Sherman added. “We don’t want to minimize the financial difficulties that the rising cost of heat will present for renters and households that heat with gas and electricity. Higher prices for fuel will affect all of us this winter,” she concluded.


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