Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The next best thing to a gold star for the typical housing authority might be an Energy Star. That's the way the Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority sees it.

"Homebuyers often are embroiled in a kind of chicken-or-egg debate," said RRHA Executive Director Sheila Hill-Christian, "about whether the front-end costs of energy conservation will be recaptured over the medium and long-term. We believe that there is a direct and positive correlation between energy-efficiency and affordability. As this commitment suggests, we believe that investing in conservation now will save a whole lot more for homeowners later."

That's why the Authority is committing to using Energy Star and other conservation methods in the construction of single-family homes as part of its $26.9 million HUD HOPE VI Revitalization Program.

And it begins this winter, with the construction of the Authority's first 32, 1500- to 2,000 square-foot detached homes in Richmond's Fulton neighborhood. Each new house will have Energy Star rated windows, ventless crawl spaces, dehumidifiers and interior HVAC units. The Authority and its partners � Health-E Community Enterprises and Southside Community Development and Housing Corporation � will also use cellulose insulation that, they say, will reach into the "nooks and crannies" where traditional fiberglass is not as effective.

When operational, these basic systems should keep heating and cooling costs to under $100 a month. Indeed, the Authority expects to employ these and other conservation technologies and techniques in constructing the other 276 new houses in Blackwell, Fulton and elsewhere in Richmond under its HOPE VI program.

"Snug and tight," said Mrs. Hill-Christian, "will mean energy-efficient and, thus, cost-effective housing for those who buy the homes the Authority builds in the years ahead."

The Richmond authority's decision to "go Energy Star" reflects a call to housing authorities in HUD's 21-point Energy Action Plan - launched by then Deputy Secretary Alphonso Jackson in 2001. He estimated that cutting HUD's energy costs by just 5 percent could realize savings of some $2 billion over the next ten years through the kinds of activities that the Richmond authority and other HUD partners have undertaken.

[Photo: Artist's rendering]
Artist's rendering
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