ACT Council of Social Service Inc.

Justice | Equity | Social Inclusion | Reconciliation

Media release: Canberra renters need further insulation against high energy and housing costs

17 December 2021

The ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) has today called for greater ambition to address significant social, economic and health inequities experienced by renters in the ACT.

In response to the ACT Government’s consultation paper on minimum energy efficiency standards for rental homes, ACTCOSS has made a submission welcoming the government’s new minimum standards, but calling for them to be more ambitious.

ACTCOSS CEO, Dr Emma Campbell said: “We welcome the ACT Government’s proposed minimum ceiling insulation standard as a step towards introducing minimum energy efficiency standards for rental homes in the ACT. This will target the worst-performing rental properties in Canberra that lack the bare minimum rating for ceiling insulation.

“In our submission, ACTCOSS is calling for additional measures such as draught proofing, curtain hanging, and energy efficient heating to be included in this first stage. We are also calling on the ACT Government to set out a pathway to more adequate and comprehensive minimum energy efficiency standards for rental homes. These would include a higher ceiling insulation rating along with energy efficient electric heating, cooling, and hot water.

“Improved minimum energy efficiency standards are needed to address inequities between Canberra households and to help to improve the wellbeing of Canberrans by reducing energy costs, improving thermal comfort and health outcomes, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and enhancing climate resilience.

“Canberra has the highest rents, and the ACT has the highest rate of low-income private rental households experiencing rental stress. Further, the ACT is the only jurisdiction where electricity prices are forecast to increase over the next three years. This comes on top of a 12% price increase since July this year and a 28% increase over the past five years. For too many Canberra renters, these high and increasing costs are compounded by poor energy efficiency.

“Beyond financial impacts, poor quality rental housing in Canberra has a significant impact on people’s health, wellbeing, and climate resilience. The 2018 ACT Longitudinal Survey on Climate Change (pdf) found that renters were more likely to report experiencing all heatwave-related health and social problems and to have the lowest resilience to heatwaves. Research from Better Renting has shown that around 40 deaths per year in the ACT can be attributed to cold homes.

“ACTCOSS has welcomed the ACT Government’s commitment of $50m over five years through the Vulnerable Household Energy Support Scheme to assist the social housing and private rental sector to meet minimum energy efficiency standards for the properties they own and manage. We are keen to see this funding used primarily to support providers of social and affordable housing. Private rental providers charging market rates should be encouraged to access the ACT Government’s Sustainable Household Scheme which can provide zero-interest loans for energy efficiency upgrades.”

Dr Campbell concluded: “Establishing minimum energy efficiency standards for rental homes is an important social justice measure in the ACT, and it is long overdue. It addresses a market failure and a power imbalance that results in inequitable social, economic and health outcomes for over one-third of Canberra’s households who rent their home.

“The initial minimum standard proposed by the ACT Government is welcomed, but it is very much a bare minimum. These standards will need to be raised over the next five to ten years to ensure Canberra renters are adequately insulated from high-cost, unhealthy, energy inefficient housing.”

ACTCOSS advocates for social justice in the ACT and represents not-for-profit community organisations. Follow us @ACTCOSS on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

For more information or comment, please contact
Dr Emma Campbell, CEO, ACTCOSS, on 0424 910 617 or 02 6202 7200.