Sunday, January 28, 2001

Agency helps renters save on heat costs

By Karen Samples
The Cincinnati Enquirer

       Tenants who pay their utilities are eligible for the same federal cash assistance as homeowners. If their landlords agree, they also can get help with insulation.

       “Generally speaking, the landlords are thrilled. Itıs a service they donıt have to pay for,” says Tammy Reasoner of People Working Cooperatively, a nonprofit agency that provides free home repair to families meeting income guidelines.

       This year, the group will weatherize about 1,400 dwellings in Greater Cincinnati. Renters represent 35 percent of the households, Ms. Reasoner says.

       Felicia Hill, 28, called People Working Cooperatively after receiving a $1,200 utility bill in December. Her rent is $645 a month for a 1,200-square-foot house in Price Hill. The house is old and drafty, so Ms. Hill, a nursing assistant, was setting the thermostat at 80 degrees for herself and her three sons.

       After the big bill, her landlord agreed to replace the furnace. She borrowed $100 from a friend, worked out a delayed-payment plan with Cinergy and called Ms. Reasonerıs group for insulation tips.

       The agency sent employees who inspected the home, covered windows with plastic, installed weather-stripping around the doors and caulked the floors. Ms. Hillıs landlord signed a release to permit the work.

       She now is able to leave the thermostat at 70 and is hoping for a smaller bill this month.

       In Southgate, Ky., Amber Woodruff has addressed her heat problem with sweat shirts and warm blankets.

       The 20-year-old saw her utility bill shoot from $60 to $140 for a two-bedroom apartment in a large complex. She and her roommate are wearing sweat shirts and keeping their thermostat at 64 degrees, compared to 70 before.

       To pay the December bill, Ms. Woodruff took on extra shifts at Longhorn Steakhouse, which is her second job. She also is manager of the public-access cable office in Kenton County.

       Five of the cable centerıs six staff people are renters. “Everybodyıs been yelling about it,” Ms. Woodruff says of the utility bills.

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- Agency helps renters save on heat costs
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