Long-term solution still needed for apartment building

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Kudos to the Brattleboro Housing Partnership for reaching a compromise that will provide cooling relief to residents of the Samuel Elliot Apartments during these oppressively hot days of summer, at least until a more permanent solution can be found.

After meeting with residents of the Elliot Street high-rise, the BHP made a decision to step back from a new policy that made in-window air conditioners verboten. The BHP crafted the policy last September on the grounds that condensation dripping from the units was causing damage to the building. Administrators were also worried that installation of the units was sometimes done in a haphazard manner, leading to the potential of a lawsuit if a unit was to fall out and hurt someone.

To resolve those issues, the BHP recommended that residents purchase floor-model air conditioners, but residents complained that these units are too expensive and don't work as well as in-window models. A petition signed by 52 of the high-rise's 54 tenants asked the BHP to reconsider the policy. The compromise reached last Thursday - which, as BHP Executive Director Chris Hart said, was "a very responsible and compassionate decision" - was hailed as a victory by the SEA Tenant Association.

"This makes their lives better," said association president Elizabeth Snyder.

We're glad the tenants will get some relief from this heat. As Hart said, "It was the best decision to make as the manager of that particular building, a low-income building, given the weather we are experiencing."

However, there is still the issue of finding a more permanent solution. The BHP's concerns about building damage and liability issues are legitimate, as are the residents' concerns about affordability. Unfortunately, installing central air in the high-rise is problematic because the building doesn't have duct work. But as Hart pointed out, "energy technology is changing all the time." Hopefully a recent request for proposals to look at the energy needs of each of the BHP's properties will reveal an idea that hadn't been considered or seemed plausible before.

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