Legislators send Pritzker bill requiring AC at state-funded affordable … – The Southern


Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO — All state-funded affordable housing would be required to have air conditioning under a bill sent to Gov. J.B. Pritzker by legislators spurred to action by the heat exposure deaths last year of three seniors in their apartments on Chicago’s Far North Side.

The bill passed in the House by a 98-13 vote Thursday and the Senate by a 54-3 vote in March.

During the House debate on the measure, Democratic state Rep. Kelly Cassidy of Chicago recalled being alerted in May 2022 to a heat emergency in the James Sneider Apartments in Rogers Park that would result in the deaths of Delores McNeely, 76, Gwendolyn Osborne, 72, and Janice Reed, 68.

“I quickly ran over there to help (Ald. Maria Hadden) do well-being checks,” Cassidy said. “For the entire week proceeding this tragedy, Ald. Hadden pleaded with the building management to switch over from heating to cooling. And it was too much trouble for the building managers.”

The cause of death for all three seniors was environmental heat exposure, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.

The James Sneider Apartments at 7450 N. Rogers Ave. in Rogers Park on May 16, 2022, where three seniors were discovered dead after residents reported high temperatures.

Brian Cassella, Chicago Tribune

The bill on Pritzker’s desk will require housing financed under the Illinois Affordable Housing Program to have cooling and dehumidification systems capable of operating independently from heating systems. There is also a requirement that newly constructed buildings that fall under the state program include permanent cooling.

While there is no explicit penalty for an apartment building that does not adhere to these rules, the bill’s chief Senate sponsor, Chicago Democrat Mike Simmons, said that in order for apartment buildings to receive their funding from the state, building managers must adhere to the new regulations.

“We want to make sure that our residents, not just seniors, but everybody in affordable housing has access to cooling in their units that they can control so that we don’t have unnecessary deaths,” he said in March on the day the bill passed through his chamber.

The bill also establishes daytime and nighttime temperature requirements for colder months, from Oct. 1 through May 31.

Under the measure, any tenant complaint about heating must be rectified within 24 hours.

“These three seniors died unnecessarily because air conditioning was not operable in their place of residence,” Simmons said during the brief Senate floor debate before the March vote.

In December, the families of McNeely, Osborne and Reed were awarded $16 million in a settlement after they sued Gateway Apartments Ltd. and Hispanic Housing Development Corp., which own and manage the Sneider Apartments.

Gorner reported from Springfield.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks during a May 10 news conference about lawmakers’ ongoing work to pass a state budget.

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May 12, 2023 at 03:58PM

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