Originally created 05/17/02

Authority will return air conditioners



Subsidized housing residents who were forced to remove air-conditioning units from their upstairs bedrooms early last month will see cooler nights soon.

Housing officials delivered notices to residents of 13 public housing complexes throughout Augusta on Thursday afternoon, letting tenants know their air conditioners would be reinstalled during the next two weeks.

The news comes after 83 public housing residents were told in early April that the window air conditioners in their subsidized apartments were fire hazards.

The Augusta Housing Authority's board of directors voted unanimously Thursday morning to immediately begin reinstalling the wall units in those homes.

"It's great, I love it," said Hattie Nunnally, a resident of Gilbert Manor housing complex and one of several people who brought the air-conditioning units' removal to the attention of public officials. She said that when officials knocked on her door and told her the news, she got giddy.

"We really was laughing up something," she said.

The housing board, in cooperation with the city fire department and the Augusta Commission, will ask the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for an exemption from new federal codes, which say window-mounted air-conditioning units are not permitted in rooms with fewer than two windows.

"A significant number of tenants in affected units are elderly and cannot, without substantial risk to their health and safety, survive temperatures that routinely exceed 95 degrees during the unbearable, hot summers indicative of living in the South," the letter to HUD officials reads.

There are about 2,000 subsidized units in Augusta, and the HUD mandate affects about 200 units, according to the exemption request. Officials said 83 units had to have air conditioners removed.

If the housing authority chose not to comply with the HUD directive and did not request a local exception to the national rules, Augusta Housing Authority could lose its federal funding.

Housing authority board members said in the future, they hope to address problematic HUD regulations before they negatively affect local residents.

"We try to be alert to their needs," said Rodger Murchison, the chairman of the housing board.

"This is very unusual," said board member Henry Ingram. "As a matter of fact, the housing authority has taken great pains to address their concerns up front."

Reach Heidi Coryell Williams at (706) 823-3215 or heidi.williams@augustachronicle.com.