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San Antonio finds another way to fund air conditioning in public housing

Christopher Ramon, left, and Rene Yanez with Premier Comfort A/C & Heating prepare an air conditioner earlier this month to be installed at the Pin Oak I apartments, a public housing complex that serves seniors and disabled residents.

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.

On ExpressNews.com: City aims to add air conditioning to public housing apartments

The U.S. 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.”

On ExpressNews.com: Sweltering in place: Thousands in public housing lack air conditioning

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. | marina.riker@express-news.net | Twitter: @MarinaStarleaf

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