Small units can’t keep up during withering heat waves
By JOSH RESNEK
Everett’s public housing is all about the mayor and what he does and what he fails to do.
That’s how it goes with public housing in Everett after 14 years of Carlo DeMaria.
“I am upset at how the mayor and who he has appointed, are running these residences and buildings,” said Councilor Gerly Adrien, a candidate for mayor.
She has a point.
The tenancy of the EHA has changed dramatically during the past decade.
The city’s public housing is a difficult collection of buildings and apartments.
No one in government in this city is to blame for the conditions of the public housing and the rules and regulations the tenants are governed by.
The mayor does all of that – or at least he is the overseer of the city’s public housing.
He wouldn’t want to take credit for that because I say so.
He would deny it.
But the mayor rules the roost.
The mayor appears to be more interested in buying hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of flowers left to wither in their hanging pots and to create a prettier public essence in the city’s rotaries than to spruce up the city’s EHA housing units.
I get this, and so do many others.
The mayor is about show and bluster more than truly caring about improving Everett’s public housing.
Our bet is the mayor spends more on flowers than on paint for the city’s housing projects.
The public housing units have gone from mostly all-white and elderly or handicapped, to nearly all residents of color and elderly or handicapped.
Public housing’s population demographic represents that of the cities.
This is another problem for the residents of color and for white residents relying on public housing as the may- or has very little interest in people of color or ethnicity or for the poor, despite the public pablum he spews all the time about his love of Blacks and Browns and Brazilians and Hispanics and the working man and woman.
If you know the mayor, you know him professing about brotherly love is all about farce and political rubbish.
I was approached this week by a longtime resident of a Whittier Drive EHA residence.
Tony Luongo is 73. He’s disabled. During the recent heatwave, he was hot.
He went out and bought and had put into his unit on McKinley Street, a 9500 BTU air-conditioner because the smaller air conditioner that he and about 50 other residents are using is simply too small to mitigate the heat – especially in their bedrooms.
Several days ago, the leadership of the EHA sent a letter to all its tenants ordering that 8,000 BTU air conditioners are allowed but nothing larger.
This has Luongo and several other residents we spoke with, who wished to remain unnamed, extremely nervous about what is to follow as a result of the new rules and regulations.
“The EHA is not giving enough flexibility with the new rules as set out in the letter we received. Many of us are worried and a bit scared. Eight-thousand BTU’s is not enough to cool off our apartments,” said Luongo.
The EHA as a matter of fact refuses to install or to take out air conditioners for its residents.
This in itself is a huge concern as the handicapped and the elderly like Luongo are incapable of lifting air conditioners, much less installing them and securing them properly as required.
The state mandates that local housing authorities follow its guidelines regarding the installation and use of air conditioners.
But at all times, the Department of Housing and Community Development insists that “air conditioning policy should allow for flexibility.”
The recent air conditioner policy requirements sent out to all residents of public housing in Everett reads like this:
The responsibility is entirely the residents…air conditioners are not to exceed 8,000 BTUs in Elderly units. All air conditioners must be energy star approved…damage to walls and windows because of improperly installed air conditioners will be charged to the tenant… weatherstripping is to be installed between the upper and lower sash. No duct tape, cardboard or cloth, or other unprotected material that is not weatherproof is allowed…the air condition- er must be secured properly and properly pitched to direct condensation away from the inside of the apartment… a wood dowel, block or other suitable material to be placed on top of the lower sash and directly under the handle of the upper sash to secure both sashes from opening.
Can you imagine a hand- icapped or elderly resident doing any of this!
I can’t, but then, I’m not in a policy-making position at the Everett Housing Authority.
Residents should reach out to the mayor if they experience difficulties complying with the new air conditioner policy.
Air conditioner rules and regulations may seem like a simple thing to those of us who own our own homes – but in public housing, the state tells the city what to do, and then the mayor tells the EHA what to do.
That’s how it works in Everett.