Andrea Demerais had two fans running around her Burnaby, BC apartment all summer long. But she says she accomplished little more than pushing hot air into her home.
“It was stiflingly hot,” he said. “Even during the night you couldn’t get any relief.”
Demerais, 49, says the heat also exacerbated her chronic health conditions, such as osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia and paresthesia.
“It really affected my joints and made me very, very sensitive,” he said. “They were popping and crackling and making noises all the time. It was very painful.”
While Demerais says he could pay the extra $30-40 in electricity costs per month to run an air conditioner, he can’t afford the upfront costs of purchasing a new unit.
“It just comes out like $1,500 a month for being disabled. My rent is $1,000. So it doesn’t go very far,” she stated.
Demerais was one of 445 renters across Canada surveyed by the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), an organization of low- and moderate-income people.
The survey asked renters to share their experiences with extreme indoor heat, including the barriers they experience in ensuring adequate cooling.
Anonymized raw survey data shared exclusively with CBC showed that renters with access to air conditioning reported the adverse effects of extreme heat less frequently than those without.
“The temperature goes up about 30 C in here, compared to 33 C outside on my balcony,” said Sandra McCrone, a 64-year-old tenant in south Calgary, even with fans on and blackout curtains blocking sunlight during the day. day.
ACORN Summary Reportreleased Thursday, identified the most common barriers to having air conditioning: high costs, threats of eviction and leases that prohibit the installation of air conditioning units.
Threat of eviction
ACORN’s extreme heat survey is based on issues raised during the CBC Urban Heat Project this summer, where temperature and humidity trackers were installed in 50 homes in five cities in Canada.
In half of the homes where the CBC collected data, it showed that people spent most of the time above 26 C — the maximum indoor temperature that experts consider safe.
With little to no central cooling, the apartments remained warm throughout the night even when outside temperatures dropped.
Shelley Petit, an ACORN member and president of the New Brunswick Coalition of People with Disabilities, says she has heard from New Brunswick social housing tenants who have been evicted or threatened with eviction for installing air conditioners.
“We’ve seen people who have gotten prescription notes from their doctor that say, ‘This person needs to keep the room temperature cool because they have asthma, a breathing problem, or a heart condition.'” she said.
“How do you evict people because they need an air conditioner for their health?”
In a statement to Breaking:, Housing New Brunswick confirmed that “tenants are not permitted to have window-mounted air conditioning units” as a result of a 2021 policy, to prevent damage to windows and accidents resulting from falling air. window air conditioning units.
However, Housing New Brunswick said tenants are allowed portable floor units and encouraged tenants with concerns about their housing conditions to contact the corporation.
The problem is not unique to New Brunswick: of the 445 tenants surveyed by ACORN, 27 people said their landlord threatened them with eviction if they did not remove the air conditioning. Twenty-three people said their leases prohibited them from having air conditioning units.
Tenants in BC also told Breaking: that has been threatened with eviction if they install air conditioning units.
David Hutniak, chief executive of LandlordBC, a landlord association with 3,300 members who collectively manage about 175,000 rental units, says this practice is not representative of the sector as a whole.
“That type of behavior is irresponsible and reprehensible,” he said.
“Any landlord who is professional and looking to have successful rentals will have a conversation with their tenant about this and try to accommodate.”
Hutniak emphasized, however, that renters should have “constructive conversations” with their landlords before installing things like window air conditioning units.
Maria Rekrut, president of the Ontario Property Owners Association, agrees.
“Open communication is the way to go on this,” he said. “That’s what I’ve been able to do for 23 years.”
Old buildings tend to lack cooling
Bernadette Mamo, an ACORN member from Scarborough, Ontario, was one of the participants in the CBC Urban Heat Project.
Mamo, 64, has lived in her apartment with her 86-year-old mother since 1967, but she says they can’t install air conditioning because The fuses on your old unit will blow, making her lose power.
“If you buy that many fuses all the time, instead of $25 a month for electricity, you’re paying a lot more,” he said.
As a result, Mamo and her mother endured the heat all summer, during which time Breaking: recorded temperatures as high as 28 C – 31 C with humidity.
“It worries me [my mother] suffer heat stroke, even if you are not outside, because [exacerbate] everything: your health, your breathing, trying to concentrate,” he said.
Hutniak says adapting units like Mamo’s will require coordination between owners and governments.
“Cooling an old apartment building is not a simple matter of plugging in a portable air conditioner… At the end of the day, the electrical capacity inside those buildings is generally inadequate,” he said.
He adds that modernizing old buildings would also incur high costs that he says many owners cannot afford on their own.
Tenants want maximum heat laws
To combat the effects of extreme indoor heat, ACORN is among those calling for provincial or municipal laws requiring maximum temperatures in apartments during the summer.
“In winter, cities in Canada have ordinances that the owner cannot allow the temperature of the building to drop too low,” said Nichola Taylor, one of the leaders of New Brunswick ACORN. “We want the same thing to be implemented in summer for extreme heat.”
Some municipalities, including Hamilton, Ont.and a suburb of victoriaare considering statutes requiring landlords to ensure rental units do not exceed 26C.
Hutniak is not opposed to the idea, but finds the lack of consultation with landowners in some municipalities “disappointing.”
“We’re all worried about the heat. It’s a real problem. Absolutely,” he said.
“We want to find solutions, but there has to be a recognition of the challenges, the costs and the balance in all of this.”
But Taylor emphasizes that many fellow renters are still vulnerable to the heat today.
“People with low to moderate incomes simply cannot afford what we are experiencing right now, much less [with] “owners add extra fees just because an air conditioning unit has been included,” he said.
“It’s just not right that people have to go through that kind of discomfort.”