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Annapolis Housing Authority awarded $725,000 to weatherize half of Robinwood units

On a particularly hot day in July, Del. Shaneka Henson, County Executive Steuart Pittman and other officials went door-knocking in Robinwood to hear from residents about a raft of gun violence in public housing communities.

While residents voiced concerns about their safety and mental health, they also mentioned the unsafe conditions inside their homes stemming from a lack of air conditioning, heating and ventilation, Henson said.

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She recalled on one side of a courtyard, residents were sitting outside, fans in hand, praying for a breeze. On the other, every door and window was closed tight.

“We could clearly see the contrast standing in the middle of the parking lot, how on one side of the street, people were a lot less comfortable than the other side of the street, and as policymakers and the executive we certainly thought it shouldn’t be that way,” Henson said.

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Later this year, more than half of the units in the Robinwood community will get some relief thanks to $725,000 in grant funding from the Maryland Energy Administration, which will be used to install heating, ventilation and air conditioning in about 82 units in the community.

“When you’re able to do energy efficiency upgrades that also dig into the ductwork and the insulation and the air filtration, all of those systems upgrades are really some of the systemic challenges that Robinwood face," Henson said. "And being able to impact those, I believe will have lasting benefits to the community at large.

Arundel Community Development Services, Inc., a non-profit focused on providing affordable housing in the county, was awarded $600,000 through a highly competitive Clean Energy Communities Low-to-Moderate Income Grant Program. An additional $125,000 in grant funding will also go toward the project, said Kathy Koch, the non-profit’s executive director.

“We’re not going to be able to solve all their problems, but we’re certainly going to bring a good investment into that community to help stabilize it,” she said.

For years, Robinwood has been plagued by mold infestations and other issues that are caused in part by a lack of air circulation and temperature control. In February, Robinwood resident, Tameka Wright, was forced to move out of her unit because of mold and city inspectors deemed the unit unfit for human habitation. Wright’s case is one of several that has led Henson to introduce legislation that would require statewide mold inspection and remediation standards. Henson’s bill did not receive a vote during Mayland’s legislative session this year.

Some Robinwood units already have heating and air conditioning, Koch said, a result of a previous grant awarded two years ago. The organization has previously weatherized 273 Harbour House units and 84 at Eastport Terrace, projects that totaled $3.4 million.

The grant award builds on previous Arundel Community Development Services projects funded by MEA that “will shrink resident’s energy bills and greatly improve their comfort levels,”, said Dean Fisher, MEA Program Manager.

The project is one of many that are currently underway to revitalize properties overseen by the Housing Authority of the City of Annapolis, said the housing authority’s Executive Director Melissa Maddox-Evans. Newtowne 20, another property plagued by infrastructure issues, was recently emptied of all residents and is set to be demolished and rebuilt in the coming months.

“We are pursuing a comprehensive revitalization effort for all of our communities, however, revitalization/rehabilitation is a lengthy process,” she said. “In the interim, we want our residents to have an improved quality of life, and this grant makes that a possibility."

This year’s award is not the end of the effort to revitalize Robinwood and other public housing communities, Henson said. About 50 or so units in the community will still be without HVAC.

“I’m hoping that just like they started, they will continue to come back and continue to invest in Robinwood and this will be just a midway point, and certainly not the end.”

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