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CBC News: Hamilton woman fears summer of extreme heat with no AC in her apartment, city bylaw is no help - ACORN Canada

CBC News: Hamilton woman fears summer of extreme heat with no AC in her apartment, city bylaw is no help

Posted July 13, 2022

Posted July 13, 2022

Elizabeth Scott is dreading what could be in store for her and her family over the long, hot months of summer.

Last summer, in parts of Canada, temperatures surpassed 40 C for days during a heat dome putting people at risk and leading to hundreds of deaths.

“I don’t look forward to summer, I like fall and winter,” Scott told CBC Hamilton.

Scott, 46, — who lives with three other family members in an apartment building at 2520 Barton St. E. — fears the heat could get unbearable, and she has no air conditioning.

“It’s really hot because I get the afternoon sun and it gets really hot in here,” Scott said.

“I have four fans … and we just have [them] going. Even if I was to go to the mall or to the library to get relief, I still have to come home and deal with the heat at night when I sleep.”

Scott says talking to her landlord about it does not help and she feels it’s useless reaching out to the city.

“Any landlords I’ve talked to about the extreme heat, they always say, ‘Well, that’s not my problem,'” she told CBC Hamilton. 

The City of Hamilton Property Standards Bylaw makes no provision for air conditioning to be provided by building owners and landlords.

Section 15.1 of the bylaw states that appliances supplied by the landlord of a rental unit shall be maintained in a good state of repair and in a safe, operable condition. According to the city, ‘appliances’ mean, but is not limited to, a stove, refrigerator, clothes washer, clothes dryer, dishwasher, air conditioner or a hot water tank.

Matthew Lawson, a manager in the Healthy Environments Division of Hamilton Public Health Services, says this section of the bylaw is strictly for rental properties where air conditioning or appliances that are supplied by the landlord — as a term of lease — be maintained. 

“This does not require the installation where none previously existed,” Lawson said. 

‘Record warming’ in store for Canada, other countries

Altaf Arain, director, Centre for Climate Change at McMaster University, says current climate projections suggest “record warming” is in store for Canada and other countries.

Arain says there has already been an increase in temperature of about 1 C, but future scenarios suggest it can be between 3 to 4 C in some places, and between 6 and 7 C in higher northern latitudes.

“We’re talking about a global mean temperature increase of 4 degrees … but this change would be higher in the northern latitudes, and Canada is in the northern latitudes, so our change would not be 4, our change will be 6 by the end of the century.”

Arain says some segments of the population — including people living in buildings with no cooling mechanism — are more vulnerable in a heat wave. 

“If we have an older population and they are living in the houses or the apartments or the buildings that do not have a cooling mechanism, then the consequences for them will be devastating,” he told CBC News.

“A few days of the warm temperature when we are above 30 degrees … those will be the segments of the population that will be impacted.”

A total of 619 deaths reported in B.C. between June 25  and July 1, 2021, have been deemed heat related. Most of those who died included elderly and vulnerable people living in buildings without air conditioning.

Scott says while tenants in her apartment building have the option of installing their own air conditioning units, that’s not something she can afford.

“I pay my own hydro bill and I really can’t afford the hydro for the AC because I’m on disability,” she said.

This can be deadly for many people

Stewart Klazinga and his wife live in a high-rise in the Vincent neighbourhood. They are both in their late 30s.

He said they previously used “window shakers,” but now have portable units, which are far less efficient — both in terms of power consumption and cooling ability — and far more space-consuming.

Klazinga said they were forced to make the switch after their landlord replaced windows in the building, and their window units could no longer fit.

“There was a noticeable drop in performance and increase to our hydro bill after we made the switch,” Klazinga told CBC News.

“Many other tenants had the same problem. Portable [units] do an OK job, but some days, especially during extended heat events, we’re lucky if it’s only 27 or 28 degrees in our apartment with two units running 24/7.

“I’ve been in other units in my building without AC at peak points during the summer months, and they can easily reach over 32 degrees inside. This can be deadly for many people — elderly and disabled especially. It’s even reaching dangerous levels for cats and dogs,” Klazinga added.

Lawson says the City of Hamilton does not keep track of the availability of air conditioning in local residential units, but he says “regulating maximum indoor air temperatures would be an important measure to help protect the health of tenants from exposure to extreme heat, whether that’s a local bylaw or regulated by the province.”

According to Klazinga, given that the city mandates that units be able to maintain a minimum temperature during the winter, they could just as easily mandate that units be able to maintain a maximum temperature during the summer.

“There would be a lot of things to consider with enacting such legislation, but it could definitely be done,” Klazinga said. 

“Toronto does include AC in their property standards bylaws — including mandating a maximum temperature, requiring that landlords be responsible for the installation of units, and other things.

Hamilton ACORN, a tenants advocacy group, has no data on how many buildings, homes or apartments have air conditioning.

But Dayna Sparkes, chair of the group’s east Hamilton chapter, says the issue of no air conditioning in buildings “has become a huge problem.”

She says ACORN will be putting together “specific demands” for city hall over the summer.

“The city needs to take action on this issue because it’s only going to get hotter,” Sparkes told CBC Hamilton.

“We have a bylaw that states that landlords have buildings at a certain temperature during the winter and I think they should have to have a certain temperature during the summer as well. I think that would be the best case scenario.”


Article by Desmond Brown for CBC News


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