Home Local Spurred by heat deaths of seniors in Rogers Park, Illinois Senate passes measure requiring AC at state-funded affordable housing

Spurred by heat deaths of seniors in Rogers Park, Illinois Senate passes measure requiring AC at state-funded affordable housing

by staff

SPRINGFIELD — Following the heat-exposure deaths of three seniors in their apartments on Chicago’s Far North Side last year, the Illinois Senate on Thursday passed a measure requiring all state-funded affordable housing to have air-conditioning installed and controlled by residents.

The measure, which applies to any housing that is financed under the state’s affordable housing program, passed in the Senate by a 54-3 vote 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 Sneider Apartments in the Rogers Park neighborhood.

They died during an unusually hot week with temperatures that regularly reached above 90 degrees. The cause of death for all three was environmental heat exposure, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.


The legislation was sponsored by state Sen. Mike Simmons, a Chicago Democrat whose district encompasses the apartment complex. Simmons said after the vote that in order for apartment buildings to keep getting funding from the state, owners must adhere to the new regulations.

“We want to make sure that our residents, not just seniors, but everybody 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 bill’s passage.

The legislation requires permanent air-conditioning for newly-constructed buildings that fall under the state program. All buildings financed through the state would be required to have cooling and dehumidifying systems that are capable of being operated independent of a heating system.

At the Sneider Apartments, residents who complained about the heat last May were reportedly told that a Chicago ordinance required that the heat be kept on until June 1.

In fact, the ordinance sets a daytime temperature requirement of at least 68 degrees from Sept. 15 to June 1, but had no requirement that the heat had to stay on if temperatures naturally exceed that threshold.

“These three seniors died unnecessarily because air-conditioning was not operable in their place of residence,” Simmons said during the brief floor debate before the vote.

The legislation also requires that, from October through May, all housing under the state program be kept at temperature of at least 68 degrees when the outside temperature falls below 55 degrees between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.

Resident complaints about heating must be resolved within 24 hours, under the bill.


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


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