After hitting a roadblock, the city of San Antonio found another way to come up with $500,000 to cool hundreds of public housing units that currently aren’t equipped with air conditioning.
The city, San Antonio Housing Authority and private foundations partnered earlier this year to provide $1.5 million to buy and install window air conditioners for almost 2,400 public housing units. Those apartments lack air conditioning unless tenants purchase and install the appliances themselves.
The US Department of Housing and Urban Development blocked the city’s first attempt to use federal grant money for its $500,000 contribution. The City Council agreed Thursday to instead use a different pot of money for the air conditioners and allocate the federal grant money for another project, according to a city news release.
“I’m encouraged by today’s action, and I’m sure the families who live in the units with no air conditioning are relieved that help will arrive soon,” Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales said in a statement. “Poverty does not mean people should live in substandard housing.”
SAHA oversees 6,137 public-housing units, roughly 40 percent of which aren’t equipped with air conditioning. Hundreds of those apartments were built in the 1930s and 1940s, decades before it became widely available.
But even today, HUD doesn’t mandate air conditioning in housing subsidized by federal tax dollars. It doesn’t provide funding for the appliances and generally discourages local housing authorities from installing them, unless electricity costs are paid for by tenants.
Marina Starleaf Riker is an investigative reporter for the San Antonio Express-News with extensive experience covering affordable housing, inequality and disaster recovery. Read her on our free site, mySA.com, and on our subscriber site, ExpressNews.com. | email@example.com | Twitter: @MarinaStarleaf