The recent sweltering heatwaves in Miami have amplified the pressing need for adequate cooling in public housing. While the intensity of this issue might seem novel, its roots stretch deep into the past, influenced by policy decisions, historical evolution, and financial challenges. In this exploration, we traverse the intricate facets of this dilemma, examining it from both a personal and systemic perspective.

Personal Struggles

One can’t discuss this crisis without acknowledging the real human lives it affects. Angela Samuels stands as a stark representative of this predicament. Her account of sleepless nights, drenched in sweat, and the resulting hospitalization not only highlights the health dangers of the heat but also underscores the human right to basic comfort.

Federal Policies: Oversight and Ambiguities

While the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) mandates the provision of heating in public housing, there’s a conspicuous absence of a similar directive for cooling. This gap, especially glaring in a tropical locale like Miami, exacerbates the vulnerabilities of public housing residents, pushing them into the embrace of relentless heat.

Miami’s Proactive Steps Towards Cooling

In response to this urgent need, Miami-Dade County has championed a $2.3 million initiative to retrofit public housing with 1,700 new AC units. This effort, while commendable, also sheds light on the multi-faceted nature of the problem. While the county looks ahead, it’s essential to address both past architectural challenges and future utility concerns.

A Glimpse Into the Past: AC in Historical Context

Delving into Miami’s architectural history, such as the Liberty Square development of 1937, reveals that air conditioning wasn’t always perceived as indispensable. However, advocates like Trenise Bryant fervently argue for a shift in perspective, championing the provision of cooling as a matter of human rights and dignity.

Economic Implications: Beyond Installation Costs

While the American Rescue Plan’s funding has catalyzed the AC installation process, it’s paramount to acknowledge the ensuing financial burden on residents. Higher electricity bills, usually not compensated for by HUD, pose a fresh challenge for many, making it imperative to consider sustainable and energy-efficient solutions.

Challenges in Retrofitting Older Buildings

For residents like Samuels, the installation of new AC systems in antiquated buildings isn’t straightforward. Complex architectural nuances demand tailored solutions, occasionally forcing inhabitants to resort to makeshift measures in their quest for respite from the heat.

National Landscape: The Need for a Uniform Stance on Cooling

Miami’s efforts, while pioneering, are set against a backdrop of a larger national narrative. The country awaits a decisive stand from HUD on AC in public housing, underscoring the necessity for a holistic and unified approach to this escalating issue.


Mayor Daniella Levine Cava’s emphasis on continuous investments symbolizes Miami’s commitment to enhancing the quality of life for its public housing residents. As the city embarks on this transformative journey, it sets a precedent, urging a nationwide reevaluation of housing standards in the face of changing climatic realities.

TL;DR: Miami’s recent heatwaves have accentuated the need for cooling in public housing. While heating is federally mandated, cooling isn’t. Miami-Dade County is investing $2.3 million for new AC units in public housing, but challenges arise due to architectural nuances of older buildings and increased electricity costs for residents. The narrative in Miami underscores the need for a national policy on AC in public housing, given the changing climate.


Miami Herald