Metro News: Toronto long way off from setting maximum temperature for city's apartments

Posted August 17, 2016

The city is a long way off from providing relief for people sweating out the summer in overheated apartments — and one local councillor says the process is taking too long.
 
“I feel very badly that we are delaying this because tenants have rights too,” Coun. Mary Fragedakis told Metro. “Public health has spoken to the risk of extreme heat and said that it could result in death. So, I don’t really know what more consultation we need.”
 
Fragedakis first championed the cause last summer with a proposal that the city adopt a bylaw prohibiting landlords from allowing apartments to get hotter than 26 C from June to mid-September.
 
Consultations have started with tenants and landlords, but the issue won’t come back to the Board of Health until next spring — at the earliest.
Even then, it’s possible that a maximum temperature bylaw won’t be the favoured option.
 
Monica Campbell, director of healthy public policy at Toronto Public Health, said such a proposal is “a number of steps” away from becoming a reality.
 
Other ideas being discussed as part of consultations include requiring landlords to provide shared air-conditioned rooms in buildings, similar to miniature cooling centres.
 
“We need to understand the feasibility in terms of what are the costs to landlords, do they pass the costs on to tenants and how do people feel about that,” Campbell said.
 
Meanwhile, with every round of consultation — and every passing heat wave — the city is ignoring warnings from its own public health officials.
 
Extreme heat contributes to about 120 deaths a year in the city, Toronto Public Health said in a 2015 report. Thanks to climate change, average annual heat-related deaths could double by 2050 and triple by 2080 if nothing is done, according to the report.
 
Last week alone, temperatures reached highs in the mid-thirties, into the early 40s with the humidex, beating out cities like Mumbai and Marrakech. Readings in some apartments were at least five degrees warmer than what Environment Canada recorded.
 
Kemba Robinson, a member of tenant advocacy group ACORN, said summer temperatures inside her apartment have reached as high as 45 C.
 
She and her two children have asthma, which is aggravated by the heat, and she’d like to see the city set a maximum standard.
 
“You can’t be paying this much rent and still suffering in your apartment,” Robinson
 
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Article by May Warren for Metro News Toronto