By Francesca Olsen

Hudson Terrace sign papers

Annmarie Friebe, Tracy Moody and Jim Reutenauer, members of Columbia Opportunities’ in-house weatherization team, sign the paperwork with Charlie Allen of Evergreen Partners to use most of the organization’s $598,000 stimulus fund award for weatherization services at Hudson Terrace Apartments on Front Street in Hudson. (Francesca Olsen/Hudson-Catskill Newspapers)

$600K Will Help Weatherize Hudson Terrace

New furnaces and additional installation will save tenants at Hudson Terrace Apartments hundreds of dollars in energy costs (each), thanks to $598,000 in stimulus funds awarded to Columbia Opportunities Inc. for its Weatherization Assistance Program.

The funding will be used countywide, but the majority will go to weatherize 168 units at Hudson Terrace. The apartment complex, built in 1973, is currently undergoing significant renovations. While residents’ rental rates are based on their income, energy costs have been climbing steadily, often exceeding 15 and 20 percent of their income.

The project is simultaneous with the renovation of Hudson Terrace – on Tuesday, workers moved in refrigerators and cut pipe, and in some units furnaces are already in place.

The funding will replace the old electric heating system with Energy-Star furnaces with 96 percent energy efficiency. “Residents were paying $400 to $500 for their heat in the winter and they weren’t even staying warm,” said Charlie Allen, a partner with Evergreen Partners, the new owners of Hudson Terrace.

The cost of 168 new furnaces ($8,500/unit), plus installation in 168 units, is substantial. James Reutenauer, Columbia Opportunities’ new weatherization program coordinator, said the project is expected to pay for itself in 8.8 years, which is much shorter than average.

Allen said Evergreen Partners submitted applications on behalf of each individual resident. To comply with requirements outlined in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, each application had to be reviewed and accepted by Columbia Opportunities.

Columbia Opportunities provides weatherization services through a contract with the New York state Division of Housing and Community Renewal. In addition to the $598,000 in stimulus funds, Columbia Opportunities received $475,000 in regular program funding for the 2009-2010 year.

Because of the stimulus money and the ability to weatherize 168 additional units, Columbia Opportunities is now eligible for additional ARRA incentive funding for weatherization programs – and Director Tina Sharpe said the organization will pursue the funding and has a goal of weatherizing more than 400 housing units for low-income families by June 2011.

“They’re the stepping stone that allowed us to go out for more incentive funding,” Reutenauer said of the project.

Sharpe said the normal contract is between 63 and 65 housing units. “The timing on this was just perfect for us,” she said. “We would have never been able to do 168 units with our normal contract.”

Allen agreed – his company’s plan to renovate Hudson Terrace Apartments was news shortly after Columbia Opportunities learned it had been awarded the stimulus funds in July.

Part of the plan is a 20-year commitment to keep the section-8 subsidy “to ensure ongoing affordability at the property” according to a press release from Evergreen Partners.

Sharpe told the Register-Star that Columbia Opportunities had looked toward a similar project before Hudson Terrace was sold, but decided not to pursue weatherization plans there until they knew it would remain as affordable housing.

The purpose of the Weatherization Assistance Program is to install energy conservation measures in low-income homes, especially homes occupied by senior citizens, people with disabilities, and families with children. The Columbia County Office for the Aging and Department of Social Services also have weatherization programs.

Columbia Opportunities is the community action agency serving Columbia County. It is funded through a variety of federal, state and private sources, including the United Way of Columbia and Greene Counties.

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