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Smith Street could see savings with upgrades

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Officials with the low-income housing center are waiting for word on a grant that would fund those upgrades.

The 2013 audit, conducted by North Carolina-based consultant High Performance Building Solutions, recommended Smith Street Station upgrade its heating, cooling and lighting systems; replace and seal windows; and install a tankless water heater.

Upgrades to the 29-unit building -- now more than 20 years old -- would help keep rent low, said Debra Payne, executive director of Religious Coalition for Community Renewal. Smith Street Station provides efficiency apartments to low-income individuals.

"Smith Street Station serves a special population that there's not a lot of safeties and affordable housing around to accommodate," Payne said.

Some tenants have criminal backgrounds that make them ineligible for public housing. Others might be moving to Smith Street from homelessness or from shelters. Every apartment is furnished, and RCCR provides tenants with pots and pans, dishes and other necessities.

"We have some people that have lived there almost since the building opened," Payne said. "Some people will stay there as they're building their income capacity."

The city of Charleston applied in December for a grant from the West Virginia Affordable Housing Fund that would provide Smith Street with the necessary improvements, should it receive the funds.

The upgrades are estimated to cost about $45,000.

While the city of Charleston owns Smith Street Station, RCCR maintains the facility and runs its housing program.

RCCR last increased Smith Street's rent in 2010 from $385 per month to $403. The organization foots the bill for its utilities. The organization paid $42,000 in utility costs from January to November 2013, according to Payne

"If you want to keep the rents down, you want to keep the building as efficient as possible," Payne said.

Smith Street Station would see a 27 percent decrease in its energy consumption if all recommendations were implemented, according to the report.

Reach Rachel Molenda at rachel.molenda@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5102.


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