COLUMBUS – An Ohio organization is showing low-income families how going green can build self-sufficiency. As it constructs and rehabs homes, Habitat for Humanity – MidOhio is using Franklin County’s AWARE building standards which focus on conservation, resource consciousness, and energy efficiency.

President and CEO E.J. Thomas says it’s their priority to help families succeed in every way possible and a big part of that is ensuring there is enough money available to meet their basic needs.

“Helping them stretch their income as far as it can be stretched,” says Thomas. “So aside from just having a home that’s energy efficient is the ability of essentially putting more dollars in their pocket every month when they don’t have to spend a big chunk extra on energy costs.”

According to their rating system, Thomas says homes built with the AWARE standards are using about half of the amount of energy that is used by a home of a similar size. In the past 32 years, over 4,000 homes have been constructed or renovated in Ohio by Habitat for Humanity.

Thomas calls the standards the “best and the brightest,” making a big difference in the lives of their partner families. He explains many come from substandard rental homes or apartments, which tend to have higher utility bills because of things like broken windows and poor insulation.

“When you consider that 63 percent of all low-income homeowners right now are paying more than 50 percent of their income for just the rental on the apartment, not including the utility, you can see why this is so incredibly important,” says Thomas.

The Ohio Sierra Club’s energy program coordinator Samantha Allen says the latest building codes and the energy-efficient appliances used by projects like Habitat for Humanity are crucial in reducing overall energy usage and emissions and, she adds, it helps the state move towards a cleaner economy.

“Less emissions are important to the Clean Power Plan because Ohio will have to create a state plan to reduce emissions by 32 percent by 2030,” says Allen. “Energy efficiency is an important and proven strategy to lower carbon emissions, reduce customer bills and also create much needed jobs.”

Habitat for Humanity offers zero-interest mortgages and financial literacy help to get families into new homes.

Habitat for Humanity – MidOhio uses energy efficiency building codes. for Humanity – MidOhio uses energy efficiency building codes.

By Mary Kuhlman

Ohio News Connection