CBC News: Residents and tenant advocacy groups asks city to implement maximum heat bylaw in Hamilton
Posted September 8, 2022
With climate change bringing record-breaking temperatures to all corners of the world, Hamilton resident Arnim Hughes said it’s essential for the city to “make apartments livable.”
His apartment faces west, which makes afternoons in summer unbearable inside, he says.
“I have to go to the mall or the library, or a bakery down in Barton Street. They have some picnic benches outside. I’m very often there doing my reading because it’s cooler outside,” he told CBC Hamilton.
Hughes is a member of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), a tenant advocacy group with chapters in the Hamilton area. Hughes, ACORN and other community members gathered in front of city hall Wednesday to share the experiences of tenants living in the city and demand change.
As part of its Beat the Heat campaign, ACORN is demanding the city:
- implement a maximum heat bylaw for rental housing;
- support retrofits at older rental buildings;
- expand measures for people to cool off when in public;
- and track heat-related illness and death.
Hughes said he acknowledges these changes won’t come easily, especially for older buildings like his, where he says he is not allowed to install a window air conditioner.
“I think new buildings should be required to provide some sort of central air conditioning, just as you have central heating.”
“Maybe the city could give some thought to subsidizing freestanding air conditioning units, stuff like that, to help choose others who are older and are affected, and who can’t afford it.”
‘It feels like I’m in an oven’
For Stoney Creek ACORN chair Liz Scott, the heat has become overwhelming.
“When I get overheated I get migraines, sometimes it feels like I’m in an oven. It affects my sleep. I have problems sleeping at night because it’s too hot,” she told the crowd during the rally.
“If I could, I would tell the landlord, ‘you want to see your tenants die in a heat wave or from heatstroke?'”
Scott expressed her concerns around climate change, which was one of the big talking points Wednesday.
Environment Hamilton’s climate campaign coordinator Ian Borsuk also spoke, highlighting the impact of climate change by way of recent heat waves.
“We’ve known for pretty much well over a decade now that extreme heat is going to become a much more prevailing issue in the City of Hamilton,” he said.
“In 2022, we’ve reached over 100 days of being over 20 degrees. This is a trend that’s only going to get worse.”
In 2019, Hamilton declared a climate change emergency, where the city vowed to treat climate change as an existential crisis.
Borsuk said in his speech that the city should be adapting, as temperatures keep rising, to ensure the safety of residents.
“It’s time for the next term of council… to fix this, and to permanently ensure that all Hamiltonians have a right to comfort, have a right to their health, and have a right to be able to adapt to the changing climate.”
The City of Hamilton Property Standards Bylaw makes no provision for air conditioning to be provided by building owners and landlords.
Matthew Lawson, a manager in the Healthy Environments Division of Hamilton Public Health Services, previously told CBC Hamilton the city 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.”
Hamilton ACORN also told CBC Hamilton earlier this year it has no data on how many buildings, homes or apartments have air conditioning but that the issue of no air conditioning in buildings “has become a huge problem.”
Survey highlights concerns, impacts of heat on health
On Wednesday, ACORN also released the results of a recent survey the group conducted, hearing from 120 ACORN members and tenants from 97 different apartments in the city, with 57 per cent of them reported earning less than $30,000.
When it comes to climate change, 81 per cent of respondents saying they are “very concerned” about it.
When asked about air conditioners in their house or apartments, 30 per cent of respondents said they didn’t have one, and almost half of them said it was because of the cost.
Seventy per cent reported the heat affected their sleep, 64 per cent said it made them fatigued, 58 per cent reported headaches and 55 per cent said it affected their ability to concentrate.
Article by Aura Carreño Rosas for CBC News