On April 6th, 1968 the city of Baltimore, along with 125 other cities around the country, was in a state of unrest. Spurred by the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., riots began all throughout the city, leaving 6 dead, 700 injured, and more than 1,000 businesses burned to the ground.
Among the burned-down buildings were the small alley houses on 23 1/2 street. Alley houses were specifically designed to provide housing to lower-income families in the city. Baltimore builders learned to lay out blocks with “small streets” in the backyard of the larger 2-3 story row houses where they could construct several more smaller row homes or alley houses. The burned- down street meant less housing was available for the working poor in Baltimore.
St. Ambrose purchased and rehabbed all eleven of the houses on 23 1/2 Street in the late 1970s. The renovations turned these reminders of destruction and unrest into beautiful, affordable rentals. These buildings were brought up from the ashes to become homes once again for families in the city.
And St. Ambrose makes sure they stay beautiful and affordable. In late October 2009, work began on five of these rental properties that were slated for an energy upgrade. The houses received a “green” makeover that has helped to keep the properties affordable by lowering utility and maintenance costs for residents. Just some of the updates that made the homes more energy friendly include replacing unvented bath fans, installing “cool roofs,” and adding more insulation and new heating units.
The total savings for the residents are substantial. Besides rent, utilities are the single largest housing expense for our residents-who are responsible for all utility costs. The energy upgrades can save households close to 40% on their monthly utility bills. These savings help to keep the houses affordable for our residents, just like they were originally intended, even as utility costs continue to go up.