Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Marcia L. Fudge and Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Jennifer M. Granholm

By Demetrius Dillard
Special to the AFRO

In a special trip to Baltimore, Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Marcia L. Fudge and Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Jennifer M. Granholm toured a home weatherization job training site and visited an HUD-assisted multifamily green retrofit program property on Dec. 15, highlighting how President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better framework would benefit local residents and community members.

Fudge also underlined HUD’s fiscal year 2021 Healthy Homes and Weatherization Cooperation Demonstration while discussing significant investments to housing and resiliency in the Biden Administration’s BBB plan, a recently introduced bill touted to have an expansive impact on millions of working-class Americans.

The two secretaries’ first stop was the Civic Works’ Center for Sustainable Careers in Northeast Baltimore. Fudge and Granholm were joined by Congressman John Sarbanes and Representative Kweisi Mfume, who gave remarks at the conclusion of the event. 

The 45-minute tour was arranged in this sequence: it began in the lobby with a brief introduction from tour guide Evie Schwartz, Civic Works’ associate director of energy programs; next, the crowd was taken to the lounge area where Fudge and Granholm asked questions and exchanged ideas with students, graduates and instructors from Civic Works programs; lastly, everyone was taken to Civic Works weatherization training lab.

In the training lab, tourists were shown various structures designed to educate trainees on how to weatherize a home, including solar installation, gas and pipeline maintenance, and drywall repair. “It means a lot, being noticed. A lot of the guys and participants that come through here, they don’t have a chance. This is their last chance,” Civic Works Field Manager and Trainer Karim Peoples said.

“So it means a lot when people with such high regard will come down and take the time to meet them, hear their stories… and to hear that the policies and the things that they set in place are affecting them on such a small level.”  

Before concluding event No. 1, Granholm announced an $18.6 million investment to expand DOE’s Weatherization Assistance Program. If everything goes as planned, Civic Works’ weatherization program will benefit from the funding. DOE weatherizes about 35,000 homes annually, she said.

“Thanks so much to Civic for allowing us to be here, and for allowing us to understand how we impact the community in several ways,” she said, adding that recipients of weatherization programs save up to 30 percent a month on their energy bills. 

“I want to announce today that the Department of Energy is announcing a funding opportunity of an additional $18 million to make homes weatherization program ready.”

After leaving Civic Works, Fudge and Granholm made a crosstown trip to West Baltimore – 852 W. Fayette St. to be exact – to meet with residents to discuss weatherization benefits to their community. Vintage Gardens, an apartment complex situated between Fairmount Avenue and Fayette Street, was the site of the more brief event No. 2. 

The housing development was retrofitted by HUD with energy-efficient measures such as high-efficiency Niagara Stealth toilet installments, the replacement of 100-watt and 75-watt incandescent lights with 23-watt compact fluorescent lights and 9-watt LEDs. Pipe insulation installment was also included on the property’s redevelopments.

“This is an exciting day for Baltimore,” said Mayor Brandon Scott, who was also in attendance.

“It’s really about this administration’s commitment to doing things in a better way, making sure that we build this country back – not to the way it was before, because what it was before was not good enough for far too many folks.”

Rena Washington, one of the residents Fudge, Granholm and Scott spoke with, had her unit weatherized a few years ago and now saves a fortune on electric and energy bills.

“I really enjoyed them. I’m glad that they came in,” said Washington, a resident of the community since 1962.

“I have seen a change, because at one time it was much colder. You had to turn the thermostat way up to get some heat, but since they put that installation in, it’s a lot better and my gas and electric bill has gone down. I think it would make it better for the community if everybody had this same system.”

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