AC restored for residents at local public housing building

BOSTON — Three days of 90-degree temperatures and another one on the way. The only comfort many are finding from the extreme heat is at home with the AC cranked up.

But for residents in one public housing building in Cambridge, that isn’t an option for the last few days. Residents there said they had heat inside their units but no air conditioning, but that has now been resolved.

People who live in the Cambridge Public Housing Building, most of whom are elderly or senior, were told they won’t have the option of turning the AC on inside their units until June 15. The Cambridge Housing Authority blames state regulations for not turning it on amid a heatwave, but residents we spoke with are having a hard time comprehending that.

“It’s horrible,” said Johnnie-Leah Ferriabough. “It’s inhumane.”

The thermostat inside Johnnie-Leah and James Ferriabough’s residence showed their 7th-floor apartment at 86 degrees. The couple, both 69 years old, said it gets even hotter in the middle of the day.

“I was just going in the room to strip naked and walk around the house like that because it’s too hot for clothes,” Ferriabough said.

>>>MORE WEATHER: Heat wave continues

Cambridge Housing Authority’s Deputy executive director gave the following statement to Boston 25 News before the AC was restored:

Due to the Massachusetts building code, our agency provides residents the option of turning on their heat through June 15th. After that date, the system is switched over to provide Air Conditioning through September 15th, at which point the building code again requires residents to have the ability to turn on their heat. The process of a full turnover can take up to a few days. Currently, the building heat is off and will only activate at user discretion. The system is designed to only provide either AC or Heat, but not both at the same time, and during shoulder seasons, we adhere to state building code. In the coming days before June 15th, temperatures are again expected to lower into the lower 50′s overnight and many residents will be looking to utilize heat again to stay warm.

The CHA would strongly support a change to building code that would allow some discretion to build owners during these shoulder seasons where temperatures can fluctuate greatly from day to day and week to week. Our building common areas do operate on a different system, to which we have no constraints, and are currently air-conditioned and provide residents with the opportunity to cool down without having to leave the building- these areas will be open 24 hours per day during periods of extreme heat. The wellbeing and safety of our residents are always at the forefront of our work and we look forward to continuing to support them through our vast amount of resources, programs, and partnerships, as we continue to navigate out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’m a retired nurse, I know what can take somebody out of here, and the heat is the number one! Stroke!” Ferriabough said.

Over at the Torre Unidad Public Housing building in Boston’s South End, senior and elderly residents said they’ve been dealing with high temperatures inside stairwells. They said the heat has come from the vents and that the window blocks still hadn’t been removed from the winter months.

“I had to go outside BHA to get the help I needed to get the windows open,” said Roy Webb, a resident of a BHA building. “They should know that the heaters shouldn’t be on, they should know we need the windows open.”