Feel the Heat?

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Feel the Heat? developed innovative policy solutions to protect Vancouver tenants during extreme heat events. Specifically, the project aims to reduce heat-related illness and death by increasing accessibility to cooling for vulnerable renters. Complementary policy recommendations include creating community cooling centres, medically prescribing cooling devices to vulnerable renters, and subsidizing cool-roofing renovations for building owners.

School:

UBC

Course:

Topics in Public Policy (POLI 533)

Instructors:

  • Kathy (Kathryn) Harrison

City of Vancouver:

  • Brady Faught

Student Team:

  • Haley Magrill,
  • Sasha Chaewon Lee,
  • Katherine Poole,
  • Lee Barrett-Lennard

Term:

Fall 2022

Summary

In 2021, British Columbia experienced a devastating heat dome that resulted in 619 deaths. Similar events will only increase in frequency and severity as global temperatures rise. Our group was tasked with protecting Vancouver tenants during these extreme heat events. As they do not own the property, renters cannot make decisions to implement large-scale cooling mechanisms such as central air conditioning or heat pumps. As a result, renters face difficulty in regulating indoor temperatures, increasing their risk of heat-related illness or death. For vulnerable renters, such as older adults and individuals with pre-existing chronic health conditions, the risk is greater still.

To overcome these problems, Feel the Heat? recommends three policy programs that provide cooling for Vancouver renters, while ensuring that vulnerable individuals can access life-saving cooling mechanisms and services.

First, we propose converting libraries, community centres, malls, and school gymnasiums into designated cooling centres during extreme heat events. A transportation network of volunteers and hired personnel would eliminate the barrier in accessing the cooling centres for vulnerable tenants with mobility limitations.

We also propose a ‘hot-line’ so renters can stay informed on symptoms of concern during extreme heat events. Second, we introduce creating a municipally funded ‘Medically Prescribed Cooling Devices (MPCD)’ program. Through the MPCD program, low-income renters with prescribed medical need would receive an income-based point-of-sale rebate for a portable air conditioner from a municipally approved retailer.

Lastly, we propose a ‘cool roofs’ subsidy program to incentivize building owners to paint roofs with a white coating that reflects heat and lowers the internal temperature of the building by up to 30%. Together, these policy alternatives seek to limit the adverse health consequences of abnormally high temperatures and prevent the surging mortality rate among Vancouver tenants during extreme heat events.

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