Highland County Community Action, Inc. is about to turn the half century mark in serving the community and the agency’s housing department has been working for nearly that long to help county residents have better homes.
Housing director Mark Current said the department is about making “homes safe and comfortable and affordable” for Highland County residents with low to moderate income.
That’s accomplished through a number of programs, Current said. What programs are offered is in part dependent on funding and also the time of year. Right now there are about 10 programs the department is administering.
A long running program that has been a part of HCCAO for more than four decades is the Home Weatherization Assistance Program, Current said.
“The program is really designed to do what will give the most bang for the buck,” Current said, and can help homeowners by reducing energy costs.
Through the program, Current said the department primarily does air sealing to reduce air leakage, and insulation of attics, floors, walls, foundations and other areas. An inspection of “combustion appliances” in the home is also performed, according to the HCCAO website.
For those eligible, the weatherization program is offered for both owner-occupied homes and rental properties.
Another long running program offered is Community Housing Impact and Preservation (CHIP). It includes rehabilitation services in areas like roofing, electrical, plumbing, and more for eligible homeowners.
“Unfortunately, every two-year cycle of the grant we have applicants we can’t serve,” Current said. “The need outweighs the money.”
That said, Current said the agency always exceeds its goals insofar as grant expectations of how many are served.
CHIP is only for owner-occupied homes, Current said.
There are some newer programs administered through the department like two energy-saving programs for DP&L and AEP customers. The programs focus is on energy efficiency in a home. What the department does, he said, is usually install energy efficient light bulbs, wrap pipes, change out shower heads to conserve water, and replace refrigerators, if needed.
He said anyone interested that is an AEP or DP&L customer can call HCCAO and make an appointment.
These programs, he said, are open to owner-occupied properties and rentals, but on the rentals there must be landlord involvement.
Other programs geared toward energy efficiency are through the Vectren and Pike natural gas companies.
Vectren offers two programs for different income levels. Pike offers a program for those at or below 200 percent of federal poverty guidelines.
Both programs, which are for customers of the companies, allow for the replacement of a furnace if needed without cutting into weatherization funds, Current said.
Current presently serves as president of the Ohio Healthy Homes Network, which he said is “a concept that came out of the Department of Housing and Urban Development that connects health with the environment” in which a person lives.
He said that if people can’t keep their homes warm enough, they often turn to additional heating sources that are not good for their health or safety, like unvented sources the use combustible fuels that can discharge carbon monoxide into the home.
Making that health and environment connection has its part in what the housing department does for homes and residents in the community.
And in its ongoing service to the community, Current said the agency is “always looking for more programs … that will help the people of Highland County.”
“Helping People. Changing Lives.” are the words people see as they enter through the doors of HCCAO at the North High Business Center. And those words are what the agency is all about, executive director Julia Wise said.
Highland County Community Action Organization, Inc. began in November 1965, and operates a number of programs to benefit people in the community. The agency is a private non-profit organization.
For more information about the agency and its services, call 937-393-3458. Information is also available on the agency’s website at hccao.org. Highland County Community Action Organization is located in the North High Business Center at 1487 N. High St, Ste. 500.
Reach Angela Shepherd at 937-393-3456, ext. 1681, or on Twitter @wordyshepherd.