Free leak repair—a partnership
Since 1998, the Water Bureau has provided free plumbing repairs and water efficiency improvements for income-qualified homeowners. Leaks can quickly become costly, and this is one way we can help. As we saw the need for the program grow, we knew we wanted to do more.
In the summer of 2020, the African American Alliance for Homeownership (AAAH) and Community Energy Project (CEP) were selected as Water Leak Repair Program community partners. These two partners and Multnomah County were granted funds to coordinate free water leak repairs.
Over the last year and a half, our partners have done amazing work to help over 100 customers with repairs, ranging from small faucet drips and toilet leaks to service line leaks of more than 3,500 gallons per day.
Meet our community partners
African American Alliance for Homeownership (AAAH)
The African American Alliance for Homeownership’s mission is to increase homeownership and economic stability for African Americans and other underserved groups by improving access, ensuring advocacy, and providing awareness and education. The leak repair program partnership is a great fit. Home repairs and utility costs can be tough for the people AAAH serves. By providing free leak repair along with access to the other free and low-cost services AAAH offers, they help increase the quality of life, even beyond the immediate need of a water leak.
AAAH Program Associate Ayzia Roberts makes the repairs happen. She is passionate about making sure the Portlanders feel valued. She loves that her work at AAAH brings people comfort and support when they need it. Ayzia and her colleagues at AAAH help their community with challenges big and small: buying a first home, managing finances, or getting a leaking toilet fixed. That’s where our partnership begins.
Pictured right: AAAH Program Associate Ayzia Roberts
The leak repair process
When customers with leaks get referred to Ayzia, she’s with them throughout the process: identifying the problem, finding a plumber, and following up after the repair. And she gets to hear the difference it makes. Ayzia remembers a client who was able to get a new water-efficient toilet and washing machine. They called to tell her the plumber did a great job, and the new fixtures have made a big difference.
Ayzia has been with the organization since 2015, when she started as a student intern. Now, as a program assistant, she is the lead for the water leak repair program and supports the entire organization, including AAAH’s home retention, day of service, home repair, and home prepurchase programs. What started as an after-school job has become a role that brings her joy and creates an avenue for her to build meaningful community relationships. When asked what she would want people to know about this program, Ayzia reminds Portlanders it’s free.
“Many people think they have to pay for the repairs. They don’t!”
When Ayzia isn’t coordinating repairs or supporting AAAH programs, she’s with her toddler. She loves being a new mom and being around family, and she’s dreaming of travel again soon—Puerto Rico and the Bahamas are on the list.
Community Energy Project (CEP)
Community Energy Project (CEP) believes everyone deserves a safe, healthy, and efficient home, regardless of income. CEP is where we meet Geoff Fey, a home efficiency assessor and one of the key people making free water leak repair available to customers who need it. Geoff’s role is to diagnose the issue, look for water efficiency opportunities in the home, and coordinate the repairs with local plumbers. The Water Bureau covers the full cost of approved repairs.
Values and expertise align
rior to following his passion for sustainable building practices to the Pacific Northwest, Geoff was a plumber in Charlotte, North Carolina. This gives him the unique ability and perspective to understand the issues a customer is facing and communicate the scope back to the plumbing team that makes the repair. Beyond plumbing expertise, Geoff has degrees in Green Building and Renewable Energy and Earth and Environmental Sciences. The values that drew him to these areas of study align with his work at CEP in home energy efficiency—everything from swapping out thermostats and water heaters to assessing home energy scores.
Pictured right: CEP Senior In-Homes Auditor Geoff Fey
Weaving resources to increase positive impact
The water leak repair partnership between the Water Bureau and CEP is new, but it’s been a great fit so far. For Water Bureau customers, there’s the added benefit working with an organization skilled in energy efficiency. When Geoff does a site visit, he’s not only looking for what is causing the leak, he’s also looking for ways to make life better for the customer overall. When he identifies multiple needs, he is often able to weave together resources. Geoff recalls one customer who had to shut off water to their home due to a large water leak in the basement. They were turning water on just enough to fill buckets and had been living without hot water for years. The water leak was fixed, and Geoff coordinated the installation of a new water heater. The customer went from living without water service and fear of losing her home to relief.
Pictured above: CEP Senior In-Homes Auditor Geoff Fey
Leading with empathy
Even without leaks to worry about, these last two years have been stressful for everyone. Geoff approaches each situation with care and empathy. Outside of his role at CEP, he loves practicing yoga and was recently hired as an instructor.
“Yoga gives me so much more capacity to do this work,” he said. “It opens me up to be able to show compassion for our clients. If my nervous system is out of balance, people know that. Yoga grounds me.”
Customers can apply for free water leak repair online or by phone: 503-823-4527. Reach out if you have questions or need help applying for leak repair. I’m here to help!
Penny Milton, Water Efficiency Coordinator, 503-865-6415