Shelter WA chief executive Kath Snell.

Initiative calls for energy efficient public housing

Retrofitting homes to be energy efficient is a low cost but high impact opportunity to lift living standards, according to Shelter WA cheif executive Kath Snell.
March 28, 2024
Gera Kazakov

SHELTER WA, the state’s peak community housing and homelessness advocacy group, is calling on the state government to retrofit all public housing by 2030 to save money on power bills and help tenants deal with the hotter summer months.

Shelter WA chief executive Kath Snell said retrofitting public homes to be energy efficient could save tenants between $780 and $1500 per year on energy bills while costing $152 million over three years for the first 10,000 public housing properties, and $486 million for the remaining 32,000 public housing properties by 2030.

Dubbed ‘healthy homes’, Shelter WA wants to see public houses retrofitted with ceiling fans, insulation, curtains, reverse cycle air conditioners, efficient hot water systems, draught sealing, and fly screens.

“We’re also recommending as a priority for this program is to start in WA’s regions and suburbs experiencing the most extreme heat and cold,” she said.

“We know that people living in Perth’s eastern suburbs often experience temperatures of up to 4 or 5 degrees higher than in Perth.

“During the recent heatwaves in February this meant that when temperatures reached 37 degrees in Perth, they recorded 41 degrees in Midland, 39 in Kalamunda and 40 in Armadale.”

A Department of Communities spokesperson said that there are 2726 public housing properties within the local government area of Swan, Kalamunda, York, and Northam.

“Since the states government’s record investment in social housing and homelessness measures, more than 2000 homes have been added to social housing stock in Western Australia,” the spokesperson said.

“In addition, more than 1000 social homes are currently under contract or construction.”

The spokesperson said the department builds all housing with consideration to make homes thermally comfortable and sustainable in terms of costs for tenants to maintain, with tenants also able apply to install air-conditioning or make other modifications.

“Ceiling fans, air conditioning apertures and ceiling and wall insulation have been included in all new construction in the northwest since 1990.”

Ms Snell said that an extensive energy efficiency retrofit of all public housing is one of the lowest cost but highest impact opportunities to lift the living standards for occupants of these homes.

“There are more than 2500 families living in social housing in these suburbs and across local government areas like Swan, York and Northam who are enduring even more extreme conditions in summer than everyone else in Perth, in homes without air conditioners or even ceiling fans,” she said.

“In the midst of a cost-of-living crisis, the government would get a better return on investment and create a better legacy if it delivers budget measures that reduce energy bills permanently, more so than through one-off rebates.”

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