Northampton Housing Authority lands $3M grant to install mini-splits for heating, cooling at 192 Salvo House units

  • The Northampton Housing Authority has secured $3 million in grants, of which about $2.8 million will be used to install mini-split heating and cooling units in each of the 192 units at Walter Salvo House on Conz Street. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Published: 10/3/2023 1:18:36 PM
Modified: 10/3/2023 1:17:36 PM

NORTHAMPTON — The Northampton Housing Authority has received over $3 million in grants for energy improvements at two of its 13 properties, Walter Salvo House and Cahill Apartments.

The grants, awarded by the state through the Low-Income Multi-Family Retrofit Program and MassSave, affects more than 250 units across the two properties, many residents of which are either elderly or disabled, according to Cara Leiper, the executive director of the NHA.

The Walter Salvo House will receive $2.8 million for the installation of mini-splits, a heating and cooling ductless unit, in each of the 192 housing units on the property.

“A lot of our residents have voiced their concerns over not having adequate air conditioning, and although the state doesn’t require us to supply air conditioning, I heard their voices,” Leiper said. “Although we offer a cooling center, getting this grant will allow us to give each individual resident air conditioning.”

In addition to addressing those concerns, the units are expected to reduce heating expense for the NHA during cooler weather.

For Cahill apartments, the NHA received $550,000 to make up for costs incurred by a recent replacement of the boiler and hot water systems at the property, which consist of 64 units.

“We had applied right before that [boiler] project started, so they went ahead and gave us funding so that it could offset what we already paid,” Leiper said.

The applications for the grants were originally submitted by the NHA in April. Leiper also said that additional money would be on the way from the state in the near future.

“This initial amount is just for the mini-split and the heat system,” she said. “We recently went into every apartment and recorded the make, model and serial number of the refrigerators, because if we have some that fall within the criteria for replacement, we’ll be able to do more along those lines.”

The process for adding the mini-splits into Walter Salvo is currently in its due diligence phase, Leiper said, and there was no current timetable for when they might be installed.

“Once we get to a point where we have enough information, we will hold some sessions with the residents and we’ll be doing a mock-up to show them how it’s used, there will be lots of training around it,” said Leiper. “I think that this is a win-win for everyone involved.”

The grants come as the city of Northampton takes steps to address issues of climate sustainability in the composition of its buildings. Earlier in September, the City Council passed a new specialized stretch code, advocated by the state, that is designed to ensure any new construction in Northampton is consistent with the state’s goals to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

The new code does not ban the future use of fossil fuels completely, but any new building using fossil fuels would require on-site solar installations and wiring that would enable the building to switch to being all-electric at a future date.

Northampton Mayor Gina-Louise Sciarra praised the NHA for taking steps to address energy concerns that were consistent with the city’s climate objectives.

“These grants pave the way for the Northampton Housing Authority to implement environmentally-conscious solutions that save costs and also offer a plan to alleviate the burden on residents,” Sciarra said. “These solutions are critical, particularly as we face increasingly warmer seasons and escalating utility costs.”

Currently, the NHA oversees 619 state and federally funded housing units that house 855 people, including 183 children, 297 individuals with disabilities and 366 senior citizens, according to the NHA. At the Walter Salvo House, 106 residents are disabled and 156 are elderly, according to Leiper.


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