Originally created 05/16/02

Cool off, HUD



The problem Hattie Nunnally is having trying to cool off her home demonstrates how unfunded federal mandates can unfairly impact ordinary people, not just business and industry.

Nunnally and 82 other Augusta public housing residents were notified just last month that in rooms with fewer than two windows they can no longer use their wall or window air conditioners in Housing and Urban Development-subsidized dwellings.

This means Nunnally's one-window upstairs bedroom at Gilbert Manor apartments is going to be like an oven roaster during the long hot summer. And her recently purchased air conditioner that could keep the sleeping quarters comfortably cool will just be taking up space.

Local officials are doing what they can to help. City commissioners invited new Richmond County Fire Chief Al Gillespie to tour the apartment complex. He found that air conditioners in one-window rooms violate no local fire codes when safely installed - information that was passed on to the Augusta Housing Authority Board of Commissioners who will take up a request to grant Nunnally and others similarly affected an exemption from the HUD mandate.

But housing authority attorney Ed Tarver succinctly points out an exemption might imperil HUD funding for all 2,000 of the city's subsidized units. "They have to comply with HUD directives even if those directives don't appear to make much sense," he says.

So there you have it. Washington's mindless out-of-the-blue "fire safety" mandate trumps perfectly accepted local fire codes that have been personally inspected and given the all-clear by the local fire chief. Tarver's right. That doesn't make sense.

If HUD insists on its one-window rule, the agency should pay for building a second window. It's not fair to arbitrarily impose new air-conditioning rules, especially after residents bought those air conditioners based on the old rules.