Cool air in homes during hot summers shouldn’t be a luxury, Hamilton residents say


Published May 15, 2023 at 5:43 pm

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Photo by Sigmund

Editor’s note: This article has been updated from the previous version with new information

A motion to include the implementation of an Adequate Temperature By-law in Hamilton to the 2024 budget was given signed off and given formal consent at today’s (May 24) city council meeting.

The temperatures are rising in Hamilton year after year and many people living in rental housing are struggling to keep cool without air conditioning.

In worst-case scenarios, that could lead to heat-related illness or death for vulnerable members of the community who don’t have air conditioning, residents and a community group that speaks for low-income tenants fear.

In Ontario, under the Residential Tenancies Act, tenants must have access to vital services such as heat, hot and cold water, and electricity. However, current regulations do not include air conditioning as a vital service to be provided by landlords or rental communities.

ACORN Canada (Association of Communities for Reform Now), a community group comprised of low- to moderate-income people, is urging the City of Hamilton to implement a maximum heat bylaw for rental housing.

According to an ACORN report presented earlier today (May 15) to Hamilton City council, 26 degrees Celsius has been recognized by other jurisdictions as a maximum allowed indoor temperature.

Development of any bylaw should include consultation with tenants, housing organizations and health professionals, ACORN members told councillors.

Many Hamilton renters feel that extreme heat is a rising concern, especially with no access to air conditioning inside rental units.

Arnim, a resident of Stoney Creek, feels “fair access” to air conditioning is not being provided.

(Photo: ACORN report)

“There has been no conversation between the landlords and tenants at my building regarding AC,” Arnim told Hamilton council. 

“My neighbour next to me installed a window unit and that is what other people did, too; that is what prompted management to put up posters all over the public areas informing us that we cannot have window units.” 

ACORN conducted a survey across the city in 2022 and heard back from 120 respondents who clearly said that extreme heat is a major issue for Hamilton tenants.

“Seventy per cent reported being affected by extreme heat in their home. The top…reported effects were poor sleep, fatigue, headaches and an inability to concentrate or complete tasks,”  ACORN member Stewart Klazinga told City council.

“Twenty-two individuals reported suffering from heat stroke in their apartment, while 30 per cent reported not having access to air conditioning in their apartment,” he added.

Common barriers to having air conditioning in rental apartments include high cost and restrictions by landlords (lease not allowing for AC), ACORN says.

The group is demanding that the City:

  • develops and implements a maximum heat bylaw for rental housing
  • develops a municipal program to support retrofits of older market rental housing stock
  • expands measures in community and public spaces for residents to keep cool
  • track heat-related deaths and illnesses in the city

Klazinga pointed out that the most effective, environmentally safe and economic cooling equipment is what’s known as split system air conditioning

“Unfortunately, they have the highest initial cost,” he said.  “We’re asking for a subsidized cost of retrofitting older market rental housing stock and financial support for low-income tenants who cannot afford the cost of utilities that come with operating cooling systems.”

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