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CBC News: Hamilton considers phasing in heat bylaw starting with common cooling spaces, councillor says - ACORN Canada

CBC News: Hamilton considers phasing in heat bylaw starting with common cooling spaces, councillor says

Posted October 4, 2023

The city has been promoting common cooling spaces to landlords as a way to protect tenants

As the City of Hamilton works toward a proposed adequate temperature bylaw, councillor Cameron Kroetsch told CBC’s Metro Morning the hope is for property owners to create cooling spaces before requiring air conditioning in units.

The city has been promoting common cooling spaces to landlords as a way to protect tenants from heat-related illnesses. At the moment, doing so is voluntary, but that could change based on the approval of a bylaw the Ward 2 councillor proposed in May.

Back then, council’s public-health committee voted to direct staff to look into requiring rental units not exceed a maximum temperature. Councillors also directed staff to report back on the possibility of developing a program to help low-income tenants pay for air conditioning, and to support building retrofits.

Tenant advocates such as Hamilton ACORN and the Canadian Environmental Law Association have advocated such an approach and said they hope Hamilton will become a national leader in enforcing cooling.

Read an edited and abridged version of Kroetsch’s conversation with Metro Morning host Piya Chattopadhyay below.

Q: What was the rationale behind a maximum heat bylaw in indoor spaces?

We’re looking at a spectrum of what temperatures make for safe and healthy living environments at both the cold and hot extremes. And what’s really pushed this has been activism from people who are supporting tenants. The ward I represent has almost 80 per cent of folks renting, many who live in apartment buildings. And people have been saying for a while now that when those extreme heat situations come to apartment buildings – many of which are older – that we make sure people feel comfortable in their homes and there are no adverse side effects for their health.

What’s the science behind the 26 degree maximum?

We haven’t settled specifically on that number in the final bylaw yet. That’ll be coming forward next year, but that’s something that other jurisdictions and municipalities have used across North America. So there are some in the U.S. and Mississauga that have some language around 26 C. So, that’s something. That’s a good starting point for us to look at.

A number of cities like Toronto have cool spaces that people can go to when the temperatures hit a certain point. Why isn’t that enough?

Hamilton has some cool spaces too. We’re trying to open more of them and we think that’s going to help. But for many folks, especially seniors with disabilities, it’s not easy to get to a cooling centre. So, in your building, hopefully you’ll have a room where there’s cooling and eventually cooling in your unit. That’s the plan here — to phase that approach in slowly.

Landlords might be looking at this saying “Is it going to create additional expenses for me?” How do you respond to landlords when they raise that issue?

I get it. It probably will increase expenses for them in some cases, but that’s part of being a landlord when you’re investing in these properties. We have to make sure that people are kept healthy and safe in their apartment. That’s the job of municipalities to the extent that we have the tools to do it.

What do you think cities need to do in terms of rethinking the level of temperatures in indoor spaces, particularly on a hot day in October like this?

We have to get past the idea that air conditioning is a luxury. When I was younger and when lots of the folks on our council were younger, that’s kind of the mentality people had: It’s great if you have air conditioning, but otherwise just open the window and tough it out. We’re no longer in the open-the-window-and-tough-it-out stage. We’re starting to recognize that a temperature of someone’s living space is no longer something that can be moderated by the temperature outside and we have to intervene.