Image: Bob Ricca

Every Victorian deserves to live in a ‘healthy home’ Cost of Living

Every Victorian deserves to live in a ‘healthy home’

As the climate changes, our old homes won’t be as safe, comfortable or affordable as they once were. This is because they lack modern insulation and energy efficient appliances.

People on low incomes often struggle to pay bills at the best of times, and these are not the best of times. With temperatures and energy prices on the rise, and our climate changing, living in a home with energy hungry appliances can quickly become unaffordable and unmanageable.

In this situation, vulnerable people often have to make choices around things like whether to put food on the table or keep the lights on.

And the situation is even worse for older Victorians, Victorians with a disability, or those with any kind of health condition that means being at home more often or being sensitive to heat or cold.

Simple measures like energy efficient appliances can make a huge difference to household budgets and to people’s quality of life, health and wellbeing.

Another area where small changes can make big impacts is minimum housing standards for rental properties.

The Government has already made significant progress in this area, but to ensure all Victorians have a home that is safe and liveable there are more measures that could be put in place, often at minimal expense.

Things like ceiling insulation can cool a house by up to five degrees, and external window blinds and draft-proofing windows and doors can all make a huge difference to temperature control in both winter and summer. These measures would mean lower appliance use and energy costs, and safer homes for Victorians.

They would also increase the capital value of rental properties. As such, landlords – not tenants – should carry the responsibility and cost of making energy efficiency improvements.

It’s not a big ask given landlords are publicly subsidised to maintain their private rental properties through negative gearing.

Vulnerable and disadvantaged Victorians are more likely than other Victorians to be living in rental housing and experience the worst that the market can serve up in terms of housing that is in poor condition, expensive to maintain, and bad for their health and wellbeing. We have a responsibility as a society to make sure their homes meet basic standards of safety and liveability.

Sometimes extra heating and cooling measures are necessary, and at those times it’s critical that Victorians – including those in public housing – are able to moderate the temperature in their homes.

Simple measures like energy efficient appliances can make a huge difference to household budgets and to people’s quality of life, health and wellbeing.

This is crucial in regional areas, including in the north of the state where temperatures can be off the chart in summer, heatwaves are becoming more and more dangerous.

We’re talking about problems more serious than feeling hot and bothered – some of the impacts being felt by families are reflected in increased family violence, community violence and drug and alcohol abuse.

There are reports of families dragging mattresses to the local park to try and cool down, leading to kids missing school.

Keeping all Victorians safe and well in their homes this summer is not rocket science.

The solutions – energy efficient appliances, retrofitting homes to be fit for Victorian summers and winters, installing cooling in public housing properties – are simple and affordable.

They would make all the difference for Victorians doing it tough this summer.

This call for further advancements on minimum housing standards for rental properties appears in A State Of Wellbeing, VCOSS’s formal submission to the Victorian Government ahead of the 2020 state budget.