Thursday, 16 April 2020 18:33

Hot houses: Western Sydney's new trajectory of inequity

Media release, 9 March 2020

After another summer of extremes, the Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils (WSROC) has called for a re-assessment of housing affordability that factors in the growing costs of living with heat, as the region seems set on a trajectory of inequity.

Seasonal data released by the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) confirms what Western Sydneysiders experienced, over the past three months. The region saw new records set for both highest and lowest seasonal temperatures and more consecutive days of extreme heat (over 35 degrees). In comparison, a sobering disparity between temperatures experienced in Western and Eastern Sydney is impacting poorer health outcomes, higher energy bills and potentially reduced liveability in Sydney’s West.

Crucially, this summer’s record-setting overnight temperatures meant there was no relief from the heat in the evenings. The region saw its highest summer night temperatures on record and nighttime temperatures were generally above average[1] - a worrying trend that has implications for potential 24-7 energy consumption and further adverse health outcomes.

WSROC President, Clr Barry Calvert, stated “The reality of living in an increasingly hot climate and dealing with urban heat has broader impacts for liveability and affordability that are only just beginning to emerge. What is yet to be considered is the extent to which heat is creating energy inequity, as people struggle to afford the costs of keeping cool.

“Affordability is often a selling point for Western Sydney, however, WSROC is concerned that increasingly hot summers will continue to cause energy bills to spike in the city’s West, as the region increasingly struggles to keep cool.

Clr Calvert continued, “Opportunity, growth and increased population are all currently hot topics for the West; however, there is no measure of the impact urban heat has on affordable living. The cost of a house is one thing; but what if living in it costs a comparative fortune, to keep it cool?

“Energy inequity is becoming a reality. Current information indicates that without multi-sector support for these changes, Western Sydney liveability will be on a trajectory of inequity, with the costs of cooling or building more efficient homes proving prohibitive.

“At a basic level, we need to address three key elements for heat mitigation: sensitive water design, more sustainable design for buildings and urban greening.

“The NSW Premier’s Priority to prioritise green space and urban canopy cover certainly goes some way toward addressing the need for cooling technologies; however, trees are only part of the solution. Urban heat mitigation must also include greater consideration of building materials, cool outdoor spaces and water,” said Clr Calvert.

"Specialists are now calling for reforms to building regulations that will require considerations such as the best building materials to keep out heat, and design principles that yield better energy consumption for cooling.

“Currently, the prevalence of heat-retaining surfaces and heat-absorbing building clusters that are being constructed without green space will create further heat disadvantage in Western Sydney.

“It is WSROC’s position that heat mitigation in the region must be urgently prioritised. Factors such as lifetime household running costs must be considered as a measure of housing affordability from the planning stage, to ensure that increasing populations can withstand increasing heat.

He continued, “Western Sydney councils are leaders in sustainability, but we need a more unilateral commitment from businesses and all levels of government to support this change. Australia’s third largest economy – ‘the engine room of the nation’[2] - deserves better.

“To ignore heat mitigation today will be to build climate ghettos of the future. Current and future communities of Western Sydney need a clear vision from regulatory bodies and governments; not a recurring blind spot," said Clr Calvert.

[ENDS]

1 http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/current/season/nsw/archive/202002.sydney.shtml

2 Multiple. First attributed: NSW Premier M. Baird, Parramatta and Holroyd Sun, 15 September 2016

 

Media contact: Kate O’Connell or Kelly Gee, e: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., t: 02 9671 4333

 

Last modified on Wednesday, 22 April 2020 14:15

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