Going green: Housing Authority looks at saving energy, money

Published 7:00 am Saturday, September 12, 2015

HOUSING INSPECTION: Pictured, air conditioning units serve public housing apartments located on North Beech St. Photo by Ashley Collins.

HOUSING INSPECTION: Pictured, air conditioning units serve public housing apartments located on North Beech St. Photo by Ashley Collins.

Officials with the Housing Authority of the city of Picayune are seeking to reduce energy costs and improve the physical conditions of their 282 public housing units through a green physical needs assessment. The housing authority’s Executive Director Toni Watts said the assessment will give them the tools necessary to save money in the long-term.

Earlier this week, the Nelrod Company, which utilizes the GPNA tool for the Department of Housing and Urban Development, inspected Picayune’s public housing units to assess the capital needs of each unit, Watts said.

Currently, public housing authorities across the country are required to perform energy audits every five years.

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“Congress is now working to gather the physical conditions of the public housing facilities, along with the audits,” Watts said. “We selected to participate because it will give us a tool that will list all our buildings components and their conditions and help us focus on fixing things that need our attention.”

The assessment uses HUD funds to create a work plan for housing authorities to utilize. The work plan lists the status of physical and energy components within the public housing facilities, including windows, doors, air conditioners, exhaust systems and appliances. The tool also details when to replace inefficient and deteriorated equipment and provides estimates on how much it would cost.

Currently, the money the housing authority receives from HUD is decreasing on an annual basis. Watts said this assessment tool will allow the housing authority and its residents to save money.

“The improvements we make using this work plan will help lessen our residents utility bills since they’re responsible for paying utilities,” Watts said. It will also decrease the amount of money the housing authority spends on repairs and help them direct the money to projects that need it the most.

The housing authority will receive the detailed report from HUD around November. The plan is designed to assist the authority for the next 20 years.

Watts said the need for public housing isn’t going away anytime soon.

In fact, public housing units are in great demand in Picayune.

Watts said the authority’s housing units — The Pines, which serves the elderly and disabled and the Mae Williams and George Weems public housing facilities for families — are currently 98 percent occupied. While the facilities are well maintained, Watts said much of the public housing units were built during the 1950s so it’s essential that they receive the work plan in order to ensure the apartments serve residents for years to come.

Besides the work plan, the housing authority plans to continue applying for grants and adding more housing units to serve the community, Watts said.