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It's Hot In Cambridge. But Some Public Housing Residents Weren't Able To Use Their Air Conditioning

150 Erie Street in Cambridge, where several residents complained that the buildings’ management had not yet turned on the air conditioning, citing Massachusetts building code, even though temperatures outside exceeded 90º for four consecutive days. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
150 Erie Street in Cambridge, where several residents complained that the buildings’ management had not yet turned on the air conditioning, citing Massachusetts building code, even though temperatures outside exceeded 90º for four consecutive days. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Eastern Massachusetts is being scorched by a heat wave. Imagine how hot it would feel if the heat was still on. Then imagine how it'd feel without air conditioning.

Unfortunately, that was the reality for some area residents in public housing until Tuesday. According to a report from CBS Boston, residents reported temperatures reaching upwards of 90 degrees in their units.

The state requires buildings to make heat available until June 15, but suggests local housing authorities and building owners use discretion when it comes to regulating temperature.

Around noon Tuesday, Karen Davis, who lives in a building managed by the Cambridge Housing Authority on Erie Street, was fanning herself in the lobby.

"This happens every year," she told WBUR.

After the CBS story aired this morning, the air conditioning was turned on in Davis' building.

In a statement emailed Tuesday evening, the Cambridge Housing Authority said the HVAC system in the building is unable to provide heat and air conditioning simultaneously. The authority seems to have followed state guidelines that say heat should be available until June 15.

Davis, who has a respiratory ailment, said even though the air conditioning was turned on, she still felt hot and was having trouble breathing. It could take a couple of days for the building to be completely cooled.

"These are hot boxes, they just conduct heat, because of the way the building is constructed. I grew up around here and by Mother's Day, you need the A/C," Davis said. "I know our environment is getting warmer, in fact. That's a proven fact. All the more reason to turn it on early."

This article was originally published on June 08, 2021.

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Quincy Walters is a general assignment reporter for WBUR.

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