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Weatherization an Ordeal for Some Residents

When Hulbert, an 87-year-old South Side resident, applied for the weatherization program, she had no idea the process would turn into what she described as a nightmare. Approved for the program in August, it would be four months before a weatherization inspector came to assess her home. During the inspection, the inspector informed Hulbert that her oven was emitting large quantities of carbon monoxide.

Despite the potential dangers associated with carbon monoxide, it would be six more months before AACOG contractors returned to replace the oven and weatherize her home. This delay in service is just one example of the broader issues faced by AACOG, a community action agency serving Bexar and 11 other counties.

AACOG had projected to weatherize 3,032 homes by an August 31 deadline but is expected to fall short by 732 homes. This shortfall puts AACOG at risk of having to return over $2 million in stimulus money to the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA), which oversees the weatherization program.

Weatherization an Ordeal for Some Residents 1

The weatherization program, intended to help low-income residents fight high energy costs, offers free conservation measures such as caulking, weatherstripping, and insulation. To qualify, applicants must meet federal income requirements and have a structurally sound home.

AACOG's weatherization program faced a setback in public image when its former housing director was accused of mismanagement. While investigations found no evidence of financial fraud, the incident further compounded the challenges faced by AACOG.

TDHCA saw a significant increase in weatherization funding after receiving stimulus money, and AACOG struggled to increase its staff accordingly. With just 14 employees initially overseeing the program, AACOG realized the need for additional staff as they faced a surge in workload.

In contrast, CPS Energy's weatherization program, Casa Verde, had a staff of 20 dedicated to serving the San Antonio area alone. CPS Energy initially received $12.4 million and aimed to weatherize 1,400 homes. To date, Casa Verde has weatherized 2,363 homes and takes an average of six months to complete repairs.

TDHCA has until next March to utilize the stimulus money or return it. Given the need in Texas, agencies are fighting to use this funding effectively. However, delays and shortcomings have caused frustration among recipients like Hulbert, who waited 10 months for repairs and was forced to take precautions due to carbon monoxide leaks.

Despite the shortcomings, Hulbert is satisfied with the work that was eventually done. The weatherization improvements have made her home more comfortable, reducing hot air drafts and improving energy efficiency.

The future of the AACOG weatherization program rests on TDHCA's decision this month to extend the deadline or redistribute the funds. Meanwhile, CPS Energy's Casa Verde program plans to continue weatherizing homes as part of their Save for Tomorrow Energy Plan.

In conclusion, the weatherization program in Bexar County and surrounding areas has struggled to keep up with the influx of stimulus funds. Delays and mismanagement have led to concerns about the program's capacity and its ability to serve those in need. However, efforts are being made to address these issues and ensure that low-income residents have access to the energy-saving measures they require.

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