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Spurred by heat-related deaths of seniors in Rogers Park, Illinois Senate passes measure requiring air conditioning in state-funded affordable housing – Chicago Tribune


SPRINGFIELD — After the heat-related deaths of three elderly people in their North Side Chicago apartment last year, the Illinois Senate on Thursday passed a measure requiring all publicly funded affordable housing to have air conditioning installed and controlled by residents.

The measure, which applies to any housing funded through the state’s affordable housing program, passed the Senate by a vote of 54-3 and moves to the House for consideration.

The legislation was prompted by the May 2022 deaths of Delores McNeely, 76, Gwendolyn Osborne, 72, and Janice Reed, 68, who were found unresponsive in their units at the James Snyder Apartments in the Rogers Park neighborhood.

They died during an unusually hot week with temperatures regularly reaching above 90 degrees. The cause of death for all three was exposure to environmental heat, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner.

The bill was sponsored by state Sen. Mike Simmons, a Chicago Democrat whose district covers the housing complex. After the vote, Simmons said that in order for the apartment buildings to continue receiving state funding, the owners must follow the new rules.

“We want to make sure that our residents, not just seniors, but everyone who lives in affordable housing, has access to cooling in their units that they can control so that we don’t have unnecessary deaths,” he said after the adoption of the bill.

Legislation requires permanent air conditioning of new buildings that fall under the state program. All publicly funded buildings will be required to have cooling and dehumidification systems that can operate independently of the heating system.

Residents of the Sneider Apartments who complained about the heat last May were reportedly told that a Chicago ordinance required the heat to be turned on by June 1.

In fact, the ordinance requires a daytime temperature of at least 68 degrees from Sept. 15 to June 1, but does not stipulate that the heat must remain on when the temperature naturally exceeds that threshold.

“These three elderly people died needlessly because the air conditioner was not working in their residence,” Simmons said during a brief discussion before the vote.

The legislation also requires that from October through May, all state program housing must be maintained at a temperature of no lower than 68 degrees when the outside air temperature is below 55 degrees from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

According to the bill, residents’ complaints about heating should be resolved within 24 hours.

Late last year, the McNeely, Osborne and Reed families split $16 million from Gateway Apartments Ltd. and Hispanic Housing Development Corp., which own and operate the Sneider Apartments.



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