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Kansas City Weatherization Efforts Exceed Goals

July 23, 2010 - 11:43am

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Kansas City's rainy summer is good news for lawns but not so good news for homes in need of weatherization, since wet conditions slow down work. 

But Bob Jackson isn't worried.

"We've had a significantly wet season… but we're two and half months ahead," says the manager of the city's Property Preservation Division, which oversees weatherization efforts for Kansas City and some satellite towns.

Even so, Jackson far exceeded the target number of income-eligible homes to weatherize, as set forth by the Missouri's Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the U.S. Department of Energy's Weatherization Assistance Program. Missouri awarded the city's Housing and Community Development Department $9.5 million to help weatherize low-income homes, under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

"We needed to do around 390 homes by a certain date in June," says Jackson, who has been working for the division for the last 30 years. "We ended up [doing] more than 100 homes over that."

Since the Property Preservation Division exceeded its goals, they submitted a request for another $3.5 million in weatherization assistance funds to the DNR.

The minimum benchmark established by the DNR to be eligible for additional funding is to be five homes ahead of projected schedule and to have spent a minimum of 95 percent of the projected funding by June 30. 

Since receiving the first round of money, Jackson's division has overseen the weatherization of almost 500 low-income homes.

A bigger workforce

While the number of homes weatherized has increased, the number of jobs has also. Recovery Act funds have allowed the division to increase its contractor pool from 15 to 35 companies, some of which are minority owned, Jackson says.

"We now have the resources to take that small contractor, train them, get them credentialed, and help them sustain their business," Jackson says. "This will help the city save energy and deal with the economic problems."

The Property Preservation Division helps improves the energy efficiency in homes of people living in Kansas City and parts of Clay, Platt and Jackson counties. The division performs the energy audits and post-work assessments, but hires and oversees the contractors using city, state, federal and private money.

The department also hired eight new people, four of which are permanent positions.

Whole house strategy

Property Preservation is spending an average of $5,000 to $6,000 on home energy improvements. The contractor teams are replacing inefficient water heaters and air conditioners, as well as installing compact fluorescent bulbs and more wall insulation.

"The stimulus funds doubled on what we could spend on a home," Jackson says. "Therefore, you are able to have a whole-house strategy. You don't have to stop insulating walls because you ran out of money. You are able to put a new refrigerator or new high efficiency furnace that you couldn't be put in before."

According to Oak Ridge National Laboratory, weatherization saves families an average of $437 in heating and cooling costs every year at current prices, with additional energy and cost savings from lighting and appliance upgrades.

"They tell me they have more disposal money," Jackson says. "And I have people that are saying that they are not only saving, but the place is quieter."

The program is available to those who earn less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level.

Kansas City is well on its way to weatherize over 2,000 homes by March 2012. No target has been set if the additional funds come in, but Jackson is still pushing ahead.

The division is averaging about 65 homes a month, but "my personal goal is 80 to 90 per month," he says.

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