Here’s what’s stopping Detroiters who want to weatherize their homes

A leaky or damaged roof isn’t just an inconvenience. For homeowners, it stands in the way of making other improvements, including ones that can save money like weatherizing a home to cut down on energy costs.

Weatherization seals up a house from the elements. It’s regarded as an important last step to make a place healthy and stable. But in Detroit, where most of the housing stock was built before 1980 and where thousands of Detroiters live in inadequate conditions, residents don’t often get to the weatherization stage because they need to address more fundamental repairs first — fixing damaged roofs, updating electrical wiring and addressing asbestos, lead or mold.

Grants through the federal Weatherization Assistance Program can help bring down costs for low-income Detroiters already overburdened by energy bills, experts in energy efficiency say. But hundreds of households have been deferred this year because of damaged roofs that prevent insulation installed to weatherize a home from working. And there’s a dearth of funding for what experts call “pre-weatherization,” fixing the issues that cause a home to be deferred. 

Rosemary Hurn, 68 of Detroit, outside of her home on  Nov 24, 2021. Hurn's roof is in bad shape and in need of being replaced. 
She had to move out of her home and in with her daughter back in late June of this year due to flood, mold and a leaky roof.
She applied for federal aid and received $4,000 for water damage to her basement that destroyed belongings and appliances but she is in need of a new roof as well.

“Many of these homes need investments even before they can be made energy efficient,” said Tim Minotas, legislative and political coordinator for the Sierra Club’s Michigan chapter.

The Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency has completed roughly 800 home assessments since April to determine whether a home is eligible for the Weatherization Assistance Program. Five hundred households were deferred and told they had to fix conditions in their home first, including 284 homes with damaged roofs. Roof repair is by far the No. 1 reason people are told they can’t safely weatherize their homes, leaders at Wayne Metro said.