TRENTON — The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities is rolling out what it says is a first-in-the-nation pilot program, in the state's capital city, to alleviate certain barriers that can prevent low-income homes from maximizing their energy efficiency.

Stacy Richardson, deputy director of NJBPU's division of clean energy, said the "Whole House" title of the program refers to the holistic approach the state is taking to remediate these dwellings' health and safety hazards.

Many states have energy efficiency initiatives in place for low-income neighborhoods, she said, including New Jersey's Comfort Partners program, for which NJBPU assists in providing energy upgrades.

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But Whole House intends to take the process at least a step further.

"What's groundbreaking about this program is that a lot of energy efficiency programs do not also include health and safety work, so this program is designed to basically leverage other resources," Richardson said. "This program is designed to create sort of a one-stop shop experience for residents."

According to Richardson, the presence of lead, mold, asbestos, or structural problems in a home may keep needed work from being done, while continuing to endanger residents.

"There's a lot of need to reduce the energy consumption in homes, make them more efficient, but sometimes, and often, homes are turned away from getting that work done because there are health and safety barriers," she said.

In a press release, NJBPU said Trenton was selected first, in part, because of high childhood lead poisoning and asthma emergency room visit rates.

More than 31,000 of the city's 34,000-plus housing units were built prior to 1980, the board said, with over 24,000 built before 1950.

Richardson said if the Trenton pilot proves successful, it won't just be other individual towns that get singled out for attention next.

"It would be available throughout the state, not just even neighboring cities or towns near Trenton, but throughout the state of New Jersey," she said.

Trenton residents interested in participating in the "Whole House" program, which is a partnership with The Green & Healthy Homes Initiative, can call 410-534-6447 or email njwholehome@ghhi.org.

Patrick Lavery is a reporter and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at patrick.lavery@townsquaremedia.com

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