Public Housing Project To Soak Up Sun

County Housing Authority Wins Federal Stimulus Funds to Install Solar Panels

The Housing Authority of the County of Santa Barbara (HACSB) was awarded federal stimulus money to retrofit solar panels on two existing public housing developments in Lompoc.

The $1,208,460 grant was distributed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in late September. The funds came to HACSB as a result of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which allocates $300 million to be invested in the environmental rehabilitation of publicly subsidized housing nationwide.

In order to qualify for the cash to go green, HACSB had to submit a speedy application delineating, among other things, cost-per-unit estimates of the renovation plans. “This was a very competitive process and extremely short, in terms of timing,” HACSB Director of Housing Development Frederick Lamont said. “There are about 3,400 housing authorities in the country and I’m speculating that a lot of them just couldn’t come up with an application on such short notice.”

According to Lamont, plans are underway to fit solar panels on the roofs of 40 units on 300 W. College Avenue, and 35 units on 535 N. I Street. HACSB traditionally provides below-market, fixed-rent units to low-income individuals and families. The units, already housing tenants at an affordable price, are expected to save a significant amount of money after the installation.

It’s a positive move towards sustainability,” Lamont said. “I mean, for energy costs to go down is better for the residents and the Housing Authority’s long-time viability. The money it costs to pay for the solar retrofitting now will pay large dividends down the road in terms of decreased electricity consumption.”

The steep installation cost is precisely the reason that the company has never completed any environmentally friendly renovations before. The generous HUD grant allows HACSB to make these changes, even with the daunting initial payment. “We have not done any solar panels in the past,” Lamont said. “It’s like a lot of things that are good ideas, but the payback is not necessarily immediate. This funding allows us to take that opportunity. And, I mean, the sun does shine in California.”

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