My first ever Low Income Housing Tax Credit Project was located in Gordon, Georgia. This particular project was to be a gut rehabilitation of a 72 unit apartment complex that was originally constructed in the mid-1980’s.
This apartment community had a mix of 1-, 2-, and 3-bedroom apartments that were in terrible condition and greatly in need of this renovation. On my first visit to the site, I was introduced to a man named William, but when he shook my hand, he said, “All my friends call me Willie, so that is what I want you to call me.” Willie was a really good man to get to know.
He lived in this apartment community in one of the apartments that would be in the second phase of the renovation. On every one of my visits for inspections, he would walk the inspection with me. He carried caulk and foam guns and would take care of any air seal touch-ups that were needed as we went. Of course, because we would spend this kind of time together, we spent quite a bit of time talking and getting to know each other.
One day, as the first phase was wrapping up the pre-drywall inspections, Willie asked me an interesting question. “Ed, what do you think our electric bills are going to be?” I really didn’t know an answer. So, I asked him this question in return, “What do your current bills run? He told me that they were about $280 per month. Ouch! Mine were consistently $175 or under. I asked him about what kind of apartment he had. He told me that it was a 1-bedroom. The 1-bedroom apartments were about 650 square feet. My house was almost 1,000 square feet larger.
So, we talked some more about it as we walked for the inspection. He told me that during the summer he kept his air conditioner on 78 when he was home and 82 when he wasn’t. During the winter, he never had his heat above 68 degrees and left it around 62 when he wasn't at home. That wasn't living very comfortably to pay that kind of money for his electricity.
My next question for him was whether or not he knew which apartment would be his when they finished the first phase and he had to move out. He took me to it (it was about 80% ready for a new occupant). He was scheduled to be in it by the end of May. Between the middle of May, when I completed my final inspections for the first phase, and the middle of July when I was ready to start the pre-drywall inspections of the second phase, Middle Georgia, had many days where the temperatures topped 100 degrees.
On my first couple of visits, Willie was not on site for whatever reason. So, the first time I saw him was in the middle of August after the “dog days of summer” had gone into full force. We were consistently having (almost daily) highs above 105 degrees!
When I finally was able to work with Willie again on an inspection, I didn’t wait long to ask him about his electric bill. He told me that he had receive two bills. Both were under $50! I then asked him if he was spending some of his extra money dining out. He told me that he cooks every meal he eats. Then I asked him where he was keeping his air conditioning set. His answer (with a big, happy smile on his face) was “a comfortable 74 degrees.” He also told me that the first thing he did was learn how to program the thermostat so it would run up to 79 while he was out of the apartment and reset to 74 about an hour before he came home so it would be comfortable when he go there.
This owners of this property chose to use the EarthCraft Multifamily Renovation strategy as their standard for work. This was before my days with Synergy, but I had the privilege of working at a great development and a great construction team. I also had the privilege of meeting one man who showed me just how important my work is and just how much of a difference my work makes for many people.
Every person in the world needs a “why” so the work they do can have meaning and purpose. Otherwise, their work will be misery most days. One of my “why’s” (honestly) is that I have grown accustomed to those basic luxuries in life known as food in my stomach, a roof over my head, and clothes on my body. However, to enjoy my work, I think about the people like William whose lives can become a little easier because of the inspections I perform to make sure that the work is done right so the residents in these apartment communities can live comfortably and affordably.
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