The Brookline Housing Authority has received $500,000 to redo dozens of kitchens in two of its buildings and to transition them to electric stoves, thanks to funding secured by Representative Tommy Vitolo.
The earmarked funds, which come from the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), will allow BHA to renovate between 35 and 45 kitchens at BHA’s Trustman Apartments and Egmont Street Veterans, both on St. Paul Street.
Some of the kitchens have not been modernized in 50 years, according to Michael Jacobs, chair of the housing authority’s board.
“We only get about $475,000 of state funds annually. So getting $500,000 is going to make just a huge, huge difference,” Jacobs said at a press conference on Monday.
According to Vitolo, it may be the largest earmark for public housing in state history. (Staff on the House Ways and Means Committee said they were unable to find a larger earmark.)
The funding helps tackle the “twin challenges” of climate change and housing, Vitolo said. Installing electric appliances instead of gas in the kitchens will reduce the use of fossil fuels, and help curb emissions in the apartments. (Research has shown that gas stoves bring pollutants into homes and are linked to childhood asthma).
“It’s easy to think about how large each of those challenges are and say, let’s work on something else,” Vitolo said. “But the fact of the matter is, we have to work on these challenges and we have to work on them together. Because housing that doesn’t meet 21st century climate requirements is going to have to get ripped up in 30 years.”
BHA will also be using ARPA money to redo hallways, entryways and windows at the two apartment complexes, according to Michael Alperin, the public housing organization’s executive director. Still, he called for more funding for public housing in Massachusetts, which has been under recent scrutiny.
“This is just a Band-Aid on what is decades upon decades of deferred maintenance in the state public housing program and portfolio,” Alperin said.
A recent proposal from Governor Maura Healey could start to address that gap: it calls for a $1.6 billion investment for the “repair, rehabilitation and modernization of the state’s more than 43,000 public housing units.”