Houses are hotting up
A friend of HH pointed out the story filed by Margaret Paul for ABC News on Wednesday, March 20th, 2013.
This issue links strongly to Healthy Living Practice 8 and we wonder why when teacher and police unions insist of air conditioning in the region Indigenous housing misses out.
HH would focus attention not on air conditioning alone, but that the houses can be cooled so that the inside living conditions are at least safe for young children and older people. We have done a lot of practical research on this issue and all the information and proven design ideas are freely available to all.
Poorly designed houses will overheat and this will increase the impacts of crowding. Air conditioning alone will simply use too much energy to be affordable and people will not be able to afford to run the units. This is a complex but important problem.
The chief executive of the Wilcannia Local Aboriginal Land Council, Jack Beetson, is warning people could die in public housing in the town because of a lack of air conditioning.
The Aboriginal Housing Office built six houses in the town between 2011 and 2012, at a cost of around $500,000 each.
The Office says its policy is that public housing is not built with air conditioning, but residents with medical needs can apply for an exemption.
Mr Beetson says that is not good enough.
“Somewhere along the line somebody’s got to buy in to this and say people are going to perish out there in summer, if they stay inside these homes,” he said.
“Particularly if they’ve got young children or babies, and there was quite a few of the people who moved into the new homes had young children and in fact in some cases babies.”
The Bureau of Meteorology says it reached 47.5 degrees in Wilcannia this summer.
But Mr Beetson says he saw thermometers recording temperatures of more than 50 degrees in the shade.
He says, in those conditions, it is not surprising that the people who live in the new houses abandoned their homes, and moved in with friends or relatives who have air conditioning.
“And that leads to other problems like overcrowding,” he said.
“And we know the by-products of overcrowding can sometimes end up in family violence and all sorts of stressful situations.”
The Aboriginal Housing Office says the houses are built with ceiling fans and cross ventilation, and residents with a medical problem can apply for air conditioning to be installed if they need it.
It has no plans to change that policy.
NSW Greens MP David Shoebridge says that is short-sighted.
“It’s an absolute certainty that Wilcannia will have extraordinarily hot and – with climate change, increasingly hot – summers, and the thought that residents have to explain that in order to get an upgrade is backwards,” he said.
“That will almost certainly be more expensive than building the air conditioning into the building when they first produce it.”
He says it is discrimination.
“When new nursing accommodation or police or teacher accommodation is built in Wilcannia, it is guaranteed that there will be air conditioning in it, but public housing tenants seem to be treated as second class citizens and have to go through enormous amounts of paperwork and applications to get air conditioning,” he said.
“They’re exactly the wrong cohort to insist to be pushed through those hoops.”
The Minister for Community Services, Pru Goward, was not available for an interview.