Energy Efficiency Foreclosure Prevention Initiative Pilot Begins in County

PITTSBURGH – Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald announced today the creation of an Energy Efficiency Foreclosure Prevention Initiative (EEFPI) Program aimed at providing energy efficiency improvements to homeowners who have PA Housing Finance Agency (PHFA) mortgages to realize savings in their utility bills.  The pilot was created through a partnership with PHFA, ACTION-Housing and four utility companies: Columbia Gas, Duquesne Light, Equitable Gas and Peoples Natural Gas.

“This is a unique partnership between the area’s utility companies, PHFA and ACTION-Housing that allows us to focus services on vulnerable Allegheny County homeowners and make energy efficiency improvements on their homes so that they can use those costs savings to stay current on their mortgages,” said County Executive Fitzgerald.  “We are grateful for the leadership and support of PHFA, ACTION-Housing, Congressman Doyle, Senator Costa and the utility companies in providing this program to our residents.”

PHFA approved a $250,000 grant at their February 14, 2013 Board Meeting to implement the pilot Energy Efficiency and Foreclosure Prevention Initiative (EEFPI).  It is expected that the combined contribution of the utility companies investment will be an additional $750,000 provided access through their energy efficiency and weatherization programs. Letters have been sent out to 1,341 households in Allegheny County.  To date, 415 persons, or 31%, have responded to express interest.  Homeowners will receive one comprehensive energy audit to have improvements made by a third-party contractor.

“Our combined efforts under this initiative will help consumers identify energy savings and then make home improvements to capture those savings,” said Brian A. Hudson, Sr., PHFA Executive Director and CEO. “By working with homeowners to lower their energy-related expenses, we’ll make homeownership more affordable – helping families stay in their homes.”

This program will target at least 200 Allegheny County homeowners who have PHFA mortgages whose household incomes are below 200% of the Federal Poverty Limits, and will provide at no cost to the homeowners, energy efficiency improvements.  PHFA will also provide homeowners with an in-depth financial education training to ensure that the financial savings associated with the weatherization work will contribute towards consistent mortgage payments.

“Preservation of home ownership has always been a top priority for our community and this partnership of PHFA, Allegheny County and the four private utility companies will advance that work by providing energy retrofits and budget counseling that will strengthen home ownership,” said Larry Swanson, Executive Director of ACTION-Housing, Inc.  “We thank Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald for his leadership in pulling all these partners together.”

While there will be no cost to the homeowners for the energy efficiency improvements, the average anticipated value of the improvements will be $5,000 per home.  The four utility companies have committed resources within existing programming that, along with PHFA’s commitment, will provide $1 million in services to eligible homeowners.

“This new initiative with Allegheny County continues Equitable Gas Company’s efforts of providing energy efficiency education and programs to our customers,” said Bill Lucas, President of Equitable Gas Company.  “Equitable Gas just concluded a pilot energy conservation program providing more than 575 free home-energy audits and more than $1.9 million in rebates to 2,700 customers who improved the energy efficiency of their homes. This partnership will continue home energy efficiency improvements in Allegheny County.”

Philadelphia also launched a similar program recently.  The program is based on that pilot, but invests more resources.  In addition to the leadership from the utility companies, the program will rely heavily upon the dedication and talent of the staff of the utility companies who helped put together this program and will be key in its implementation.

“Unique partnerships like the Energy Efficiency Foreclosure Prevention Initiative are good examples of how local corporations, organizations and government can work together to leverage resources and help our neighbors. Peoples is proud to be working with Allegheny County, PHFA, ACTION Housing and other utility companies on this pilot project,” said Morgan O’Brien, President and CEO of Peoples Natural Gas.  “It is my hope that this program will serve as a resource to many families within our communities and help them avoid foreclosure.”

In addition to the Mr. Hudson, Mr. Swanson and Mr. O’Brien, several other supporters of the initiative spoke at the press conference launching the program including The Honorable Mike Doyle, U.S. Congressman for the 14th District; Jamie Glasser, Legislative Counsel for State Senator Jay Costa, 43rd District; Mark R. Kempic, President of Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania, Inc.; Michele Sandoe, Vice President of Customer Care, Duquesne Light Company; Scott Waitlevertch, External Communication & Governmental Relations Manager, Equitable Gas; and Dennis Davin, Director of Allegheny County Economic Development. Following the announcement, PHFA CEO Hudson indicated his hope that, if successful, the Energy Efficiency and Foreclosure Prevention Initiative (EEFPI)  could become a model program throughout Allegheny County, as well as across the state and nationally.

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