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Post date: April 23 2015

A.G. Schneiderman Announces $2 Million Sustainable Homes Program Targeting Low Income Families In Rochester And Syracuse

Partnering With Rochester Area Community Foundation And Home HeadQuarters, Inc., Program Aims To Help At-Risk Homeowners Cut Heating Bills, Eliminate Home Health And Safety Hazards

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced that he is teaming with the Rochester Area Community Foundation and Home HeadQuarters, Inc. in Syracuse to launch a $2 million sustainable homes program. The program will help low-income families lower their energy bills and eliminate serious home health and safety hazards in older homes. The program is funded with money from a $9.5 million court-ordered settlement with American Electric Power (AEP), the largest U.S. power company, over violations of the federal Clean Air Act.

“Aging homes, modest incomes, and scarce community resources force too many low-income families to live in houses that are unsafe, unhealthy, and energy inefficient," said Attorney General Schneiderman. “These investments will help alleviate these problems by giving families the resources they need to make needed improvements that will help keep them safe while cutting energy consumption. These programs will also serve to strengthen our neighborhoods and revitalize our communities."

The $2 Million investment will create sustainable homes programs in both Rochester and Syracuse that are modelled on the highly-successful Buffalo Green and Healthy Homes Initiative (BGHHI). The Buffalo initiative is implemented by the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo with partial funding from the Attorney General’s office. That initiative has helped more than 379 of Buffalo’s neediest families to lower their energy bills and eliminate serious home health and safety hazards in older homes.

As with the Buffalo program, the monies provided by the Attorney General's office from the American Electric Power settlement will be used by Rochester Area Community Foundation and Home HeadQuarters, and their implementing partners, to directly fund energy efficiency and weatherization improvements in targeted owner-occupied housing, while serving as a catalyst to attract parallel funding for health and safety improvements such as lead poisoning intervention, asthma trigger reduction (reducing mold, dust and vermin infestation), and correction of home accident hazards. 

Much of the housing stock in Rochester and Syracuse is aged. For example, in Syracuse, more than 50% of the housing units were built before 1939 and, in some of the city's most distressed neighborhoods, this rate rises to almost 90%. In Rochester, more than 60% of the housing stock was built prior to 1940. 

Both cities have also faced chronic economic challenges, leading to low incomes and poverty. In Rochester, the median household income is 42% lower than the national average. In Syracuse, 30% of the population -- and 60% of children -- live below the national poverty level. The combination of aged housing stock and economic distress results in a deterioration of housing and unaddressed home energy efficiency, health and safety needs within both cities low-income communities.

“Improving energy efficiency will lead to more affordable energy bills, more money in the pocket of consumers, and a better environment for the City of Syracuse,” said Syracuse Mayor Stephanie A. Miner. “The City of Syracuse enjoys the benefits of a good partnership with Home Headquarters. With this funding, they will be able to further their critical mission of giving Syracuse the best housing stock available for its residents. This is just another example of how Attorney General Schneiderman has put a major emphasis on urban housing needs during his time in office. As Mayor, I appreciate his support for these important quality of life issues.”

“A person’s ability to sustain a good job, get a quality education and contribute to a vibrant neighborhood all begins with having a safe place to call home,” said Rochester Mayor Lovely A. Warren. “With Rochester’s aging housing stock, many families are challenged to keep their homes in good repair, so the sustainable homes program will go a long way toward helping our families and revitalizing our streets and our neighborhoods. I applaud Attorney General Schneiderman for looking out for Rochester’s homeowners, and I’m confident that the Rochester Area Community Foundation will be able to put these funds to good use.”

“On behalf of Rochester Area Community Foundation’s board and donors, I want to thank New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and his team for their leadership and financial support on behalf of Rochester homeowners,” said Jennifer Leonard, President and CEO, Rochester Area Community Foundation. “Healthier, safer, greener homes help create a more equitable community -- one of the Community Foundation’s top grantmaking goals. We are proud to be a partner in this collaborative effort.”

“Medical and educational research has demonstrated the harm that housing contaminants, such as mold or lead, can have on the health of families, especially children,” said Trilby de Jung, CEO, Finger Lakes Health Systems Agency, a project partner of the Rochester Area Community Foundation. “This funding from Attorney General Schneiderman will provide critical help to homeowners in our most challenged neighborhoods. The initiative will bring together some of Rochester’s most successful players in community development, housing, environmental health, job training and weatherization to create a foundation for neighborhood health and revitalization."

“We are thrilled to be selected by Attorney General Schneiderman as the local Project Administrator for this effort, as it lends itself to Home HeadQuarters’ mission to help homeowners access programs and services to make their homes safe,” said Kerry Quaglia, Executive Director, HomeHeadquarters, Inc. “In addition, we are lucky to have supportive partners from the community, including nonprofit agencies, the City of Syracuse, Onondaga County, Central New York Community Foundation and Health Foundation of Western and Central New York, who have been working on this issue locally to ensure the success of the program. Together, we will collectively improve the lives of homeowners and work towards positive systems change."

“By offering financial and facilitation support, the Central New York Community Foundation is pleased to join the multiple community partners collaborating with Attorney General Schneiderman and Home HeadQuarters to help in this initiative,” said John Eberle, Vice President, Grants & Community Initiatives, Central New York Community Foundation, a project partner of Home Headquarters. “This collaborative initiative will help improve the quality of life for hundreds of Syracuse homeowners in a safe, health, and energy efficient manner – and the system-wide improvements to services deployed will live on for years to come.”

“We are sincerely grateful to Attorney General Schneiderman for his strong support of New York families, and dedication to creating healthy, safe, and energy efficient homes,” said Ruth Ann Norton, president and CEO of the national Green & Healthy Homes Initiative (GHHI). “This critical investment will improve health, social, and educational outcomes for children, seniors and families in these two communities. We look forward to supporting the efforts of the Rochester Area Community Foundation and Home HeadQuarters.”

About Rochester Area Community Foundation

The Rochester Area Community Foundation is a Rochester-based independent not-for-profit regional community foundation that works to improve quality of life by evaluating and addressing community issues, promoting responsible philanthropy, and connecting donors to the community’s critical needs in an eight‐county service area, centered in Monroe County and the City of Rochester, that also includes Genesee, Livingston, Ontario, Orleans, Seneca, Wayne, and Yates counties. 

About Home HeadQuarters, Inc.

Home HeadQuarters, Inc. is a Syracuse-based independent not-for-profit housing and community development organization. Home HeadQuarters is one of the largest housing and neighborhood revitalization organizations in Central New York as well as one of the largest regional providers of affordable home improvement loans and grants for homeowners in Central and Upstate New York.

About The Buffalo Green and Healthy Homes Initiative

The Buffalo Green and Healthy Homes Initiative, which the Attorney General's office helped create in 2010, is administered by the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo. The key innovation of the Buffalo program, which will be replicated in Rochester and Syracuse , is its use of "resource-braiding" to attract funding from a range of governmental and philanthropic sources. With additional resources, money is coordinated and focused on “whole-home” remedies. This approach has allowed the program to address the full range of energy efficiency and weatherization improvements, as well as health, and safety needs of homeowners through single, comprehensive interventions.

The Buffalo program has an established an impressive track record of accomplishments. To date, the initiative has:

  • Assisted 379 of Buffalo's neediest families – including almost 200 children – with crucial home health, safety and weatherization interventions; 
  • Grown the $2.6 million of initial investments in the initiative into more than $10.3 million in program funds; 
  • Engaged more than 50 public and private-sector partners in implementing the initiative;
  • Achieved home rehabilitations at an extremely cost-effective average investment of just over $10,500 per home -- with the Attorney General office’s funding averaging roughly 1/3 of the total per-home allocation; 
  • Trained more than 270 unemployed or underemployed Buffalo residents (most of whom are re-entering the work force following criminal justice histories) for careers related to home improvement. More than 175 of those receiving training through the BGHHI, have been placed in jobs; and 
  • Received numerous awards and recognitions, including Buffalo's designation as the 15th national Green and Health Homes Initiative site by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

With additional financial support of $193,000 from Attorney General Schneiderman provided in 2013, the Buffalo program has worked to reduce communication and cultural barriers that prevent Nepali and Burmese refugees – groups with the highest rates of homeownership among Buffalo’s resettled political refugees community – from fully accessing the initiative. To date, the “New Americans Project” has reached over 1,000 members of Nepali and Burmese refugee community.

This matter is being handled for Attorney General Schneiderman by Assistant Attorney General Jane Cameron and Policy Advisor Peter C. Washburn of the Attorney General's Environmental Protection Bureau, with support from Deputy Bureau Chief Monica Wagner, Bureau Chief Lemuel M. Srolovic, Executive Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice Alvin Bragg, and First Deputy for Affirmative Litigation Janet Sabel.