Annapolis Public Housing may restrict air conditioners

Many residents object to move, planned for a Thursday vote

May 11, 2011|By Nicole Fuller, The Baltimore Sun

The Annapolis Public Housing Authority's board will vote Thursday on a plan to ban some window air conditioning units in three of the city's housing complexes in order to comply with federal and local safety standards — a proposal that many residents are rallying against.

Carl Snowden, chairman of the board, said he plans to vote for the ban, which would affect about 344 apartments in Robinwood, Newtowne 20 and Eastport Terrace, because the units pose a serious safety issue. Snowden said the city fire marshall and federal housing policy requires at least two emergency exits in the case of a fire or other emergency.

Many of the windows in the complexes are not safe for air conditioners, he said, because they are sliding glass closures. The use of an air conditioner in one of those windows would block an emergency escape. Snowden said if the policy passes, residents in violation would be subject to eviction.

Robert Eades, a public housing activist and former resident, said he plans to seek help from the American Civil Liberties Union.

"Air conditioning is not a luxury," said Eades, who said there are many elderly people and those with disabilities in public housing. "It's a necessity. To be boxed into these houses with no air conditioner is a health hazard."

Snowden said while he understands residents concerns, the housing authority cannot continue to be in violation of safety standards, adding that it would cost $1.5 million to install central air conditioning at the three complexes — money the authority does not have.

"This is a serious violation," said Snowden. "You're putting other people's lives at risk. We have this dilemma: Do you allow what we've all been publicly put on notice, a potential safety issue, by allowing these units to continue to block egresses? I don't think we can do it morally, or legally."

nicole.fuller@baltsun.com

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