HPET and Homes for America provide affordable housing in Hagerstown, Maryland.

HPET and Homes for America provide affordable housing in Hagerstown, Maryland.

Nine years ago, Rev. Greg Shook moved into the Bradford Apartments in Hagerstown, Maryland, with his husband Jonathan and dog Bailey. He chose the property for its proximity to the city’s historic downtown, attractive units, beautifully landscaped grounds—and most importantly, his ability to live within the community he serves at his Lutheran church.

In 2015, the Bradford was acquired through a unique partnership between Homes for America, the Housing Partnership Equity Trust, and the National Housing Trust—all mission-driven organizations committed to keeping the property affordable to community members like Rev. Shook and his family. However, as properties age and as land and utility costs rise, it becomes extremely challenging for owners to keep rents low while maintaining the homes as safe, healthy places to live. As a community leader who serves people in all economic circumstances, Reverend Shook knows this reality well.

“People are hurting,” he said. “Salaries don’t keep up with the cost of living, and it’s hard to find apartments that are affordable and livable.”

However, this is where mission-driven owners get creative. The partnership put their heads together and applied for a grant from the state of Maryland that is providing energy efficiency upgrades to lower residents’ utility bills. Annual future savings are estimated at $125,000.

“Keeping utility costs low enables residents to contribute more funds toward other necessities, such as healthcare, childcare, and education expenses,” said Jared Lang, Assistant Vice President for Sustainability at the National Housing Trust. “Affordable, quality housing is just one of many critical needs for our residents. Lowering utility costs and freeing up precious dollars gets our residents one step closer to success in all aspects of their lives.”

“Most importantly, the savings helps residents at the Bradford stay in the well-located property and pursue the opportunities the community has to offer,” added Kathy Ebner, President and CEO at Homes for America. “This means children continue to attend the same school, adults aren’t forced to undergo long commutes, and seniors can continue receiving care from people they know and trust.”

The grant comes from Maryland’s Multifamily Energy Efficiency and Housing Affordability program. At the Bradford, it will pay to replace outdated heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems with energy-efficient models. It will also cover the cost of insulating hot water lines, adding LED lighting to units, and purchasing Energy Star-rated refrigerators.

Now the units will be even more affordable—and the residents are looking forward to it. Rev. Shook said he can’t believe how quiet the new HVAC system is and is eager to see the energy savings it will produce.

“It should be good for our utility bills,” he said, “and the environment.”