Scott Ball / Rivard Report
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.”