Why we need Comfy Homes

Rental properties waste more energy on heating than other properties, and renters are least able to cover these costs. This means that the people least able to pay high utility bills are being put in a position where it costs them more than others to stay comfortable – and they have to choose whether to heat or eat.

Renters don’t own their homes. They can’t improve the energy efficiency. Landlords don’t pay the power bills. They have little reason to do the right thing. The Government needs to step in and make sure that the efficiency of rental properties is improved so that more people can live in comfort and dignity in their home.

More energy efficient rental properties will improve health, save money, and give renters a better life. All Canberrans – including renters – deserve comfy homes.

Comfy homes for people on low incomes

According to ACOSS, one in two people on low-incomes are renters. Low income households spend a greater proportion of their income on utility costs and less of their energy consumption is discretionary, so there is less scope to reduce consumption through conservation. As energy costs have increased, energy poverty is an increasing reality for many – not just those on low-incomes.

More efficient rental properties will mean that low-income renters can heat or cool their homes more efficiently. They may use this to save money and put it towards other family needs. Or they may make the choice to keep their home warmer and more comfortable. In any case, the quality of their lives will be improved.

Comfy homes for people with disabilities

ABS data indicate that one in three people with a disability in the ACT are renters, with one in five people with a disability renting in the private rental sector. People with a disability are in a particularly bad position with respect to energy affordability because they:

  • Typically have a lower-income,
  • Have less disposable income due to more non-negotiable expenditure on special tools, food, or medication,
  • Often have increased heating/cooling requirements, and
  • Are less likely to benefit from energy efficiency.

A worrying proportion of people with a disability have gone without essentials to pay power bills, often missing out on essential heating and cooling. Improving the efficiency of rental properties would mean that renters with a disability would be able to maintain a healthy living environment at lower cost.

Comfy homes for children

According to AHURI, four in ten rental households include dependent children. Children can be especially vulnerable to the adverse health effects of poor-quality homes, which can be mouldy or damp. In addition, high energy costs may force parents to make financial decisions that impact upon their children: NCOSS has found that unaffordable energy bills have resulted in children missing out on school books, uniforms, excursions, and even daily meals.

Comfy homes for less pollution

According to the IEA, buildings account for one third of global energy consumption, with half of this in the residential sector. More efficient rental properties will mean less energy is needed for heating and cooling. This will reduce electricity consumption and gas usage – reducing the emission of pollution that is damaging our climate.

Comfy homes for our health

Research published in The Lancet indicates that over one in twenty deaths in Australia are attributable to cold. In Sweden (which has more efficient houses), the figure is only 3.9% – suggesting that about one in three of the deaths in Australia is a preventable consequence of low-quality housing.

Making rental properties more energy efficient will mean people have healthier, comfier homes. In Scotland and New Zealand, improvements to building energy efficiency have also been found to reduce hospital visits, reduce sick days from work or school, and result in less use of medication.