This article features one of NCSEA’s members, Community Housing Partners (CHP). While CHP offers a wide range of services, this article primarily focuses on their Energy Solutions division, including weatherization. We spoke with Everett Brubaker and Chase Counts from the organization to learn more about their work focused on affordable housing solutions. Along with his role as the Senior Director of Operations at CHP, Chase Counts is also a member of NCSEA’s Board of Directors.
Community Housing Partners
Community Housing Partners (CHP) is a nonprofit organization headquartered in Christiansburg, Virginia, working with private and public partners to develop and preserve homes that are healthy, affordable, and sustainable. Founded in 1975 as a volunteer group performing minor home repairs for low-income families living in unsafe conditions, CHP has grown into a multistage nonprofit with more than 350 employees across the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic. The organization now delivers a multitude of services including real estate development, construction, energy services, asset management, property management, and realty to name a few. In 2021 alone, CHP's impact could be quantified in the following ways:
- Providing 11,508 people with stable rental housing;
- Securing nearly $3 million dollars of emergency rental assistance for 931 households ensuring stable housing during ongoing difficult times; and
- Weatherizing 6,393 homes to help low-income families reduce energy costs by improving energy efficiency.
Serving Low-Income Households Through Weatherization
One of the many services that Community Housing Partners offers is weatherization, which not only improves the health and safety of low-income households across Virginia, but also reduces energy costs via energy efficiency measures for families and individuals. Weatherization is protecting homes from outdoor elements like the heat, cold, sunlight, and precipitation in order to reduce energy usage and costs. Examples of weatherization steps are adding insulation and sealing cracks to keep the warm or cool air in and keep bad weather out.
Weatherization programs, like the one offered by CHP, are incredibly valuable to low-income communities across the country. In fact, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) found that low-income households in the U.S. typically spend nearly 14% of their total annual income on energy costs, which compares to about 3% for other households. Situations like this are classified as high energy burdens, in which families pay a disproportionately large portion of their income towards energy related expenses.
Through the federally-funded Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) administered by the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development, CHP Energy Solutions reduces energy costs for families while also assessing and eliminating health-related and safety issues. In order to qualify for the program, CHP assesses needs based on a series of income criteria. Additionally, the organization gives priority to households with elderly residents, individuals with disabilities, and children.
“It's an important but often overlooked aspect of the clean energy transition. Weatherization sits at the intersection of all these different challenges and obstacles— environmental injustice, social injustice, socioeconomic injustice. Not every household is going to be capable of installing rooftop solar or ground-mounted solar on their property, but just about every household can benefit from reducing their energy consumption one way or the other,” explained Chase Counts.
Once CHP identifies qualified households, it begins all energy efficiency projects with a comprehensive energy and safety inspection of the home. Inspections include identifying issues such as air leakages, drainage issues, leaky water pipes, along with insulation needs. Next, through a combination of funding sources and partners, CHP employs a series of contractors to address these issues and makes necessary repairs before installing energy efficient upgrades.
In one case study provided by Community Housing Partners, they were able to provide a safer, more comfortable, and affordable home for a senior resident allowing her to continue living in her beloved household. CHP provided more than $19,000 dollars of home upgrades resulting in a 20% reduction in air leakage and saved the household an estimated $1,519 a year.
Similar to CHP’s Virginia-based data, NCSEA also conducted a study in partnership with the NC Weatherization Assistance Program to quantify savings from weatherization services offered in 2020. In that study, NCSEA found from 265 homes in 20 eastern NC counties that on average a home receiving weatherization services saw an annual median savings of $157.
Gaining Community Trust and Spreading Awareness
CHP has historically connected with homeowners via word of mouth, given the success of the weatherization program and the growing interest within the communities they serve. Today, however, Brubaker and Counts explain that the organization has expanded its methods of identifying communities in need. For instance, CHP now uses targeted mapping to identify potentially high energy burdened communities in need of weatherization services. In addition, CHP has organized “backpack campaigns” to place flyers into children’s backpacks who have either been identified by teachers or through free and reduced lunch programs. These flyers are then taken back to their home to share the benefits of a weatherization program with families.
Brubaker and Counts emphasize that community trust is an integral piece to CHP’s work across the east coast. They also highlight the importance of strong community ties to ensure their teams are seen as reputable by families and homeowners. The organization gains this trust through partnerships with local nonprofits, religious organizations, and other community groups well-known within the community. Partnering with these groups is also an effective way for CHP to receive referrals from trusted sources to further reach families in need.
What’s Next for Community Housing Partners?
Moving forward, Brubaker and Counts mention that the organization plans to continue building their weatherization efforts to further help communities save money through energy efficiency. To note, CHP has grown more than 110% in the last 14 months and plans to hire at least 30 new people in various roles. As Brubaker concluded: “Our aim is to help create homes and communities that are sustainable, affordable, and healthy, and these programs allow us to do just that.”
NCSEA would like to thank Everett Brubaker, Chase Counts, and their team at Community Housing Partners sharing information about their work focused on low- and moderate-income communities along the east coast. Learn more about the organization at Community Housing Partners | Healthy, Sustainable Communities for Everyone.