Australia’s most vulnerable people are likely to be suffering from high energy costs, with a research hub calling for minimum energy standards on properties to help ease the burden for these renters, new research reveals.
The research by the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI) showed up to 40 per cent of tenants are struggling with what they have called “energy hardship” meaning financial hardships caused by energy expenses.
It was revealed renters with low income, existing health issues and some living in poor conditions, were the most vulnerable to energy hardships, with many changing their daily lives to reduce the cost of energy.
However, Dr Lyrian Daniel from the University of Adelaide points out that it is difficult to determine how to solve this issue due to its complexity.
“One of the big problems is that there is no agreed definition of how the community measures energy hardship,” he said.
“It is critical that we’re able to capture and then monitor the different factors that lead people into energy hardship overtime so that effective policy responses that catch people before they experience deep and long-term disadvantage can be developed.”
The research found that minimum standards for the energy performance of rental homes are a critical starting point to improving living conditions and energy affordability within the rental sector and must underpin all other strategies.
“In addition, mandatory disclosure of dwelling performance was seen as a potentially powerful tool to aid residents in their selection of properties, and as a way of monitoring compliance with minimum standards,” Dr Daniel said.
The quality of dwellings is said to be a major concern for renters trying to reduce energy costs, as 18 per cent of public renters and 14 per cent of private renters were unable to stay warm during winter.
Tenants also felt limited by the options they have to improve the heating efficiency of their apartment, as many landlords didn’t value making energy-efficient upgrades to their investment properties.
The research noted, however, that installing heaters or air conditioners to make housing more comfortable may simply mean lower-income tenants are unable to afford to operate the appliances, leaving their home either too hot or too cold,
“One strategy we propose is that landlords could be ‘incentivised’ to improve their houses’ energy efficiency and performance over time,” Dr Daniel concluded.
“This could be done through landlords being able to claim tax rebates or other financial assistance so that appliances, such as old, inefficient hot-water services, could be upgraded to more energy-efficient models instead of replacing with ‘like-for-like’ products.”