Sweating it out: the need for government action on hot homes

By Sophie from Sweltering Cities, https://swelteringcities.org/

Renters are baking in dangerously hot homes every summer, and it’s getting worse. Climate change means hotter summers and longer, hotter and more frequent heatwaves. This is bad news for everyone, but especially renters, who are more likely to live in poorly built, low energy efficient homes with no insulation or air con, and no real power to get their landlords to make simple cooling modifications such as installing heat proof curtains or fixing leaky windows that let hot air in.

It’s fantastic that renters are sharing creative strategies to stay cool at homes, from DIY air conditioning hacks to inventive use of fans and ice packs, but it’s important to remember that the ultimate responsibility lies with our state governments to address this systemic issue. Rental regulations across the country must ensure that all tenants have access to safe, cool homes as our summers become hotter and harder to deal with.

Too often, extreme heat is talked about as an individual problem for people to manage on their own. As renters, we are told to turn on the air conditioner, go somewhere cool, or put a wet towel around our necks. In reality, rising temperatures are a collective issue and we all need to work together to find solutions to protect our communities.

In Victoria, where we’ve been running our Heatwave Safe Homes campaign, rental laws don’t reflect the serious health risks of living in hot homes, and cooling is treated as a luxury, not a necessity. Rental homes must have heating for winter, but these rules don’t apply to cooling. So even if renters can provide records of unsafe hot temperatures in their homes, there are no standards that help them advocate for cooling. The burden is on the individual to make their home liveable. 

Heatwave related deaths are projected to increase as our summers become hotter and more severe. Renters are more vulnerable to the effects of extreme heat and Victoria’s current rental laws do not protect people from living in unsafe homes during scorching temperatures.

Heatwaves kill more Australians than all other environmental disasters combined. Extreme heat affects many communities across the country, especially older people, people with disabilities, people with chronic illnesses, and babies and small children. In Victoria, renters are vulnerable to the health impacts of heat because they are more likely to live in homes with no insulation or air con, so are disproportionately feeling the impact of rising temperatures.

The good news is that we have the solutions to ensure that safe homes become a reality for all renters. We need governments across the country to listen to renters and health and housing experts when they say that simple changes to our rental rules will save lives and ensure that people’s homes keep them safe, not make them sick.

Showing 1 reaction

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.