Greening low-income homes is good for environment, but even better for utility bills

When you’re strapped for income and doing whatever you can to stay in your home, you have to find a way to trim down any expense. The people who live in the 14 housing communities owned and operated by Foundation Communities spent $4 million on the water and energy bills last year, and despite the fact that the housing takes advantage of Austin Energy’s energy-efficiency programs, residents’ cost is increasing 10 perecent each year.

As owner of these real estate properties, Foundation Communities spent more than $750,000 in 2007 on water and energy costs, so you might guess it’s looking for savings, too.  That’s why they’re excited about the $50,000 grant from Bank of American Charitable Foundation, which will help them “green” their properties and lower energy and water costs to residents. It’s the first greening grant Foundation Communities has ever received.

My guess is Sunshine had something to do with it. Sunshine Mathon is Foundation Communities’ sustatainability project manager. Staff spent this summer performing energy- and water-usage audits of 11 Austin apartment communities and three North Texas properties. According to Mathon, staff is studying “how do we mitigate, or even reverse, the dramatic trend of rising utility bills for our residents who live on limited, and sometimes fixed, incomes?”

Foundation Communities engages in lots of other sustainability efforts, too. In fact, they have some really helpful and actionable ideas for the rest of us. I’m sure they won’t mind if you steal them. See especially what they did at Spring Terrace, which is a former hotel on I-35 and St. John’s that they turned into 140 efficiency apartments for single adults living on very low incomes. (This means 140 almost-homeless adults can now live in a healthy environment.)

Show your support for Foundation Communities. Take advantage of their regular monthly housing tours and/or go online to make a donation. Remember that every nickel helps.

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