Victoria Garwood grew up in a single-family, semi-attached house on Rosedale Avenue in the Bronx. After moving back home to care for her mother, she realized that the cost of running such a poorly insulated home might be more than she had anticipated. In particular, the kitchen and the living room were too cold to use in the winter for an extended period of time.
“This is my family home. It’s a beautiful home,” says Garwood. “My mom raised four kids in this house as a single parent. I gave her my word that we would remain in the house as long as we could. But the heating bills are crazy.”
Then she heard about Green Jobs-Green New York. Through GJ-GNY, a certified contractor conducts a free or reduced-cost energy assessment of a home, and then performs a retrofit of the home that promotes energy efficiency. A retrofit can save a homeowner hundreds or even thousands of dollars each year. SSBx helps homeowners apply for low-interest financing and subsidies through New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) to help pay for the work.
Garwood made an appointment with Cynthia Ngombe, SSBx’s GJ-GNY Program Manager, and scheduled an energy assessment. The assessment indicated that all exterior walls of her 2,300-square-foot home needed to be insulated by injecting the walls with insulated foam – a process that didn’t exist when the home was built in 1920. The cost for the insulation was more than Ms. Garwood could afford and she did not qualify for the financing that was available through NYSERDA’s financial institution.
This was a problem Ngombe had seen before. “Everyone’s financial situation is different, and having only one creditor offering financing wasn’t enough of a solution for enough people,” says Ngombe. “We realized we needed to find a way to offer other options.”
Ngombe began working with community-based organizations to find other funding options. Her efforts led to SSBx forming a partnership with the Bronx branch of Neighborhood Housing Services (NHS) of New York City. NHS is a national, community-based nonprofit offering low-interest financing and grants for income-qualified homeowners seeking to make improvements. “This partnership allows SSBx to expand our reach because NHS has more flexible financing criteria,” says Ngombe. “NHS also works with homeowners to help them qualify for a grant-loan package to cover the retrofit cost.”
A year after having the energy assessment, Garwood reapplied for financial assistance, this time through NHS. After working with NHS, Garwood received a grant and low-interest loan that enabled the retrofit work to begin. “It’s not even winter yet, but already I can stand in the kitchen for longer than I ever could before,” says Garwood. “I think it’s a wonderful program.”
SSBx is currently seeking additional ways to make retrofits financially accessible to more people, including seeking grants to provide some subsidy assistance directly to the homeowners.
For more information or to schedule a home visit and energy assessment, contact Cynthia Ngombe at firstname.lastname@example.org.