The Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI) has published research that examines how energy hardship is affecting the Australian rental sector.
The research estimates that up to 40 per cent might be experiencing hardship due to rising energy costs and energy-inefficient dwellings, and between 14–18 per cent are unable to keep warm in winter.
Researchers from the University of Adelaide, RMIT University and the University of South Australia examined the impacts energy hardship is having in Australia, and the possible strategies that could be used to reduce its effects.
Dr Lyrian Daniel from the University of Adelaide says one of the problems is that there is no agreed definition of how the community measures energy hardship.
“It is critical that we’re able to capture and then monitor the different factors that lead people into energy hardship over time so that effective policy responses that catch people before they experience deep and long-term disadvantage can be developed,” he says.
The report includes both absolute and relative measures of financial hardship, and circumstances where residents limit their energy use for normal daily activities.
One of the key findings is that the minimum standards of energy performance in rental homes needs to be improved.
There needs to be a clear understanding of what constitutes basic housing quality.– AHURI
The research also suggests that landlords should disclose dwelling performance to aid potential residents in their property selection.
Dr Daniel believes landlords could be “incentivised” to improve their houses’ energy efficiency and performance over time, through tax rebates or other financial assistance.
In the meantime, he says a clear definition of what constitutes a “decent” or “safe” home – currently lacking in Australia – must be developed.