City Council Approves Final Funding to Install Air Conditioning in Public Housing

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Air conditioning window units are installed for the SAHA owned Villa Tranchese on Thursday.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

Air conditioning window units are installed for the SAHA-owned Villa Tranchese on Thursday.

City Council on Thursday approved the allocation of $500,000 from its general fund to allow the San Antonio Housing Authority (SAHA) to install window air-conditioning units in public housing facilities.

Nearly 2,400 air-conditioning units will be installed by the end of June in apartments that lack AC across 20 communities in the city. SAHA Communications Director Michael Reyes said work started earlier in May. So far, the housing authority has installed 408 units at nine properties.

“The City had committed to this funding a few months ago,” he explained. “We started earlier this month because summer is around the corner and we didn’t want to wait. We started using existing funding … and said we’d complete it when additional funding comes in. We’re glad we started early. Temperatures are rising and we’re running out of time.”

City Council also voted Thursday to reprogram $500,000 of Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding toward supporting the air-conditioning project. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) denied the City’s original request to use the CDBG funding because the federal agency required a more permanent solution than the window units. However, Reyes said that permanent units would have drastically increased the total costs.

SAHA dedicated $500,000 of its own resources toward the air-conditioning project. With the new $500,000 allocation from the City, $300,000 from the Gordon Hartman Family Foundation, and $200,000 from the San Antonio Housing Trust Foundation, the housing authority now has $1.5 million to outfit each household with air conditioning.

“Our current program with window units cost $1.5 million,” he said. “Had we done built-in units into the wall, we’d have to cut out large holes into every single [housing] unit, and we’re talking about 2400 units. That would have cost $9 million. There’s no way we could have done that.”

There are more than 55,000 residents in San Antonio public housing, and 26,621 of those are children. CPS Energy will provide residents with a $15 coupon to help offset initial costs, and host community fairs to educate people about how to save on energy costs, Reyes said. SAHA also will teach its residents about conserving energy. The housing authority covers utility bills for the elderly and disabled.

HUD does not currently mandate air conditioning for public housing. SAHA started installing AC units in one of its largest housing facilities a few years ago, but didn’t have enough resources for all of its properties, Reyes said.

“The money isn’t there,” he said. “We have almost $500 million in backlogs in terms of maintenance, and we get $11 million [in federal funding] a year. There’s not enough to cover things like AC when we have so much upkeep every single year. … That’s why we’re grateful for the City and Gordon Hartman to partner on this initiative.”

7 thoughts on “City Council Approves Final Funding to Install Air Conditioning in Public Housing

  1. As a tenant in a SAHA building for the aged and disabled I am glad that my peers in other buildings will be able to live in comfort.
    As to HUD, everyone knows that’s the most useless federal agency in the US government. It matters not what those bureaucrats think.
    At Fair Avenue a printed flyers was distributed to residents addressing a rent increase to offset the additional electric costs. The Tenants Union of San Antonio intervened along with State Representative Diego Bernal and SAHA rescinded the rent hike.

  2. 55,000 people in public housing? There are 1,429 cities / towns, etc in Texas. If those 55,000 were to incorporate, they would be the 65th largest city in Texas.

    Rivard, show us the demographics of those 55k. How many are able bodied adults? How many illegals? How many have lived in public housing for more than 5 years?

    With all the focus on “sustainability”, where are the concerns about a sustainable civic supporting themselves?

    • John – have you seen an application for public housing via SAHA? Here’s the link: The 2nd requirement is to “meet HUD requirements on citizenship or immigration status”. The waitlist is extensive and once someone pops up, they have to send the most recent documents as it relates to their wages, family IDs, disability (SSI, if applicable), etc. to determine whether they are still eligible for public housing. SAHA isn’t just handing out keys to apartments willy-nilly.

      Residents also receive additional services – education, job training, etc. – from local social service agencies. Those in elderly and disabled housing won’t necessarily receive job training, but these families aren’t placed in the apartments and just forgotten.

      • Hi Catherine,

        I had not seen an app before – thank you. However, the application doesn’t address my questions. There is plenty of open source reporting regarding the abuse of such programs. Let me clear – I’m challenging the scope and size of the program, to include duration. The Rivard article reads like a puff piece, and that I was hoping to point out an opportunity for a well researched policy piece, not simple a PAO talking points article.

        I agree there is likely a certain level of need for this type of public support. I question the the method of delivery of the program, and would hope Rivard would actually use critical reasoning to examine the policy from a sustainability perspective.

        • Hi John,

          What more do you want. They have supplied you with the required application, and of course filling one out does not guarantee access to the program.

          What open source reporting do you speak of? Maybe you should tell this newspaper about those open sources. How do you know these are reliable source? Have you checked their resumes, have you read other articles, do they use citations, what are those citations and are they trusted? Maybe you could supply some of these an we can start a discussion.

          There is a need for AC in public housing. People in texas as well as the rest of America die every year, especially those who are vulnerable (the elderly, the sick, and those with health issues).

  3. JQuas, JDs post was pretty clear (both of them). Not sure which parts you don’t understand – but it’s likely you are stuck on the logical parts not computing compared to the emo appeal.

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