Sustainable Property Management at Cabrillo EDC
Today we're bringing you the second installation of our Green Leaders Series with a spotlight on our west coast WegoWise expert, Lilyana Morejon, an AmeriCorps VISTA intern at Cabrillo Economic Development Corporation. Since the start of their work with us last year, Cabrillo has been able to track and analyze twenty-three of their properties, which house mostly low-income families in the greater Los Angeles area. Lilyana spent some time to speak with us about why environmental, social, and economic values are all important parts of their overall goals toward building more sustainable housing.
source: Lilyana Morejon, Cabrillo Economic Development Corporation
Q: What is Cabrillo Economic Development Corporation and what do you do there?
A: Cabrillo EDC is a non-profit organization focused on building homes for low-income families, especially foreign workers, in the Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties of California. We also serve seniors and those with disabilities, and we’ll be looking into affordable housing for veterans in the future.
Through the NeighborWorks program, a national network of more than 240 affordable housing organizations, Cabrillo is working toward receiving a Green Organization Designation. Becoming a member of NeighborWorks means receiving grants, program support, and training and technical assistance, in addition to a national recognition as leaders in sustainable affordable housing.
More importantly, we want our residents to understand where and how they live, which is where my job comes in. Through education and tenant engagement I’m working to target not only residents, but also all of our staff members to become involved in sustainable lifestyles, such as making the best decisions for how to use and repair certain appliances and forms of energy.
Q: You received your degree in Urban Planning. What got you interested in this?
A: I’ve always loved the built environment and open spaces, specifically how they work together as a space where people come together to play, work, and interact. I love learning about how communities connect and communicate to create an exciting place for all members.
Q: What kind of progress have you made since the beginning of your work with Cabrillo?
A: We’ve started a new green committee to help each group within our organization realize their environmental impacts, and we meet with these representatives on a monthly basis. On the property management side, we’ve begun organizing plans to better engage the tenants, like tips on where they can go to recycle or when to use their appliances.
Within the next month, we’re planning an energy and water conservation module where we can show residents how much they’re consuming on a monthly basis and how this changes over time. We’d like to see a 10 percent reduction in overall energy and water use. For example, we’ve known that Cypress has been one of our oldest and worst performing developments. Visualizing this inefficiency in WegoWise compared to the rest of our properties was the final assurance that encouraged us to apply for funding for building retrofits.
Q: Cabrillo has always stressed the importance of getting their tenants involved and engaged in their energy use and efficiency levels. Can you elaborate on why this is such a strong point for you?
A: We really want to be raising awareness among our residents so that they can learn and understand how much energy and water they’re consuming and how to lead more sustainable lifestyles. Families make up a large portion of our residents, so supporting this value is an important part of our work. Many of the children here suffer from asthma, which is an example of where we can come in and help residents understand how to improve the environmental aspects of their lives. One of the most popular tenant workshops we’ve had so far was a D.I.Y. workshop on how to make homemade cleaning products that are both clean and affordable. Their participation is vital. Along with raising their awareness, we want to make sure we’re learning from them just as much.
Q: How has WegoWise helped you track retrofits you've done?
A: We wanted to put in new efficient lighting fixtures in our office building, and our funders were requesting a report on average consumption before moving forward. Lucky for us, we had this data in WegoWise, which helped us get this out quickly and easily. We’re also targeting our second most inefficient development, Yale Street, to focus on individual unit-by-unit efficiency levels. We want to direct our efforts toward improving individual tenant use, rather than jumping to conclusions about whole buildings, as we might do with a master meter.
Q: Cabrillo manages a pretty large group of properties, with over 900 residential units. How do you keep up with it all?
A: Our great property management system combined with open mediums of communication is key. Some of it has to do with the regulations coming from our funding sources, but so much of it has more to do with the fact all of us on staff are working with really smart people toward a common purpose of creating better opportunities for these families, regardless of our individual roles within Cabrillo.