Capping Indoor Temperatures at 26°C will Protect Tenants from the Effects of Extreme Heat.
Toronto – With the humidex anticipated to soar over 40°C this afternoon after a sweltering night which saw humidex values stay above 30°C, Mayoral candidate Gil Penalosa announced that as Mayor he will create a new by-law requiring landlords to keep indoor temperatures below 26°C. That temperature was recommended by the City’s Medical Officer of Health due to evidence indicating that exposure to temperatures above 26°C is associated with increased premature mortality and emergency medical services calls.
“Toronto tenants deserve a safe and comfortable home,” said Penalosa. “For too long City Hall has left half a million renters without air conditioning to roast inside their apartments as the number of days with extreme heat has steadily climbed. We must act now to protect all residents, especially the elderly and those with medical conditions, from the effects of prolonged heat inside their homes.”
The health impacts of extreme heat include heat stress, heat stroke, morbidity, and mortality. Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health also found a link between warm temperatures and poor quality of sleep. Sleep plays an important role in health and well-being. Insufficient sleep has been associated with many chronic health conditions including diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and depression.
People who experience high temperatures for prolonged periods, or are sensitive to heat, are the most vulnerable. The danger of prolonged heat events is also increased by the fact that indoor temperatures tend to climb with each hot day in the absence of air conditioning. This is significant because heat-related mortality increases with the duration of heat waves, and when nighttime temperatures are high. Populations that are susceptible to extreme heat also tend to be more likely to spend time indoors, including the elderly, those who are chronically ill or living with disability, and those with lower incomes. As such, total exposures to heat are largely determined by indoor temperatures.
The need for a maximum temperature by-law has only become more urgent. Last month, a Parkdale Landlord threatened to evict tenants if they did not remove their air conditioners. Toronto renters are also unfortunately familiar with the bi-annual shoulder season confusion over when to turn heat on or off due to Toronto’s out-dated heating by-law tied to the calendar instead of the weather.
Further, these heat events will only become more extreme in terms of temperature and duration due to climate change. According to a recent article, between 2051 and 2080 Toronto could see an average of 55 days a year above 30 C, compared to just over 10 between 1976 and 2005
The City already recognizes that temperatures inside apartment units should not exceed 26°C through its by-law capping temperatures at that level in units with air conditioning. This has created an inequitable two-tier system that primarily affects lower-income Torontonians in older buildings that are less likely to have air conditioning.
As Mayor, Gil will work with landlords to ensure that buildings are retrofitted to be as energy efficient as possible and that increasingly more of the power needed for air conditioning comes from renewable sources.