Australia: Australian homes so cold they fall below WHO safety standards

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Australian homes have been described as 'winter tents' that are failing to meet the standard of warmth set by the World Health Organization for a 'safe' environment.

As an unusually cold winter sends temperatures plummeting, new research shows Aussie houses rarely warm up to 18C - the minimum recommended by the UN body for 'safe and well-balanced' indoor living.

Temperature trackers placed in 70 rental properties uncovered the homes were below 18C 70 per cent of the time.

New research has shown Australian homes are failing to reach the level of warmth recommended by the World Health Organization (stock image) © Provided by Daily Mail New research has shown Australian homes are failing to reach the level of warmth recommended by the World Health Organization (stock image)

One house recorded overnight temperatures as low as 6C - only slightly higher than if a person was sleeping in a car.

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The research is being conducted by community organisation Better Renting.

The group's founder and executive director Joel Dignam said the results were very concerning.

'Even in some relatively warmer parts of Australia, the average temperatures are still really low,' Mr Dignam told the ABC.

'So in New South Wales and Victoria, the average temperature in the rental properties we're tracking is still below 18C.'

University of Adelaide Professor of Housing Research Emma Baker said Australian houses were often poorly insulated because they were not designed to be heated.

'Power used to be really cheap so Australian houses were basically designed as winter tents that you could pump a whole lot of energy into during winter and warm them up,' Professor Baker said.

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Now with energy prices skyrocketing people were struggling to pay the bills to keep warm.

Professor Baker said cold homes can badly impact inhabitants' well-being.

'We know that cold housing affects people's blood pressure and their risk of cardiovascular disease, and obviously respiratory disease,' Professor Baker said.

'But the really interesting thing that's been coming up lately is mental health.

'Mental health seems to be the canary in the mine, the thing that is affected first by having cold housing.

Soaring power bills are forcing many people to cut back on heating their homes © Provided by Daily Mail Soaring power bills are forcing many people to cut back on heating their homes

'It might be via worry about not being able to afford to heat your home, or the drudgery of living in an uncomfortable living environment, or the sadness of not being able to provide your kids warmth.'

Mr Dignam called for minimum standards of the heating and insulation for rentals across the country.

Real Estate Institute of Australia president Hayden Groves stated that mandating such standards could be counter-productive in an already incredibly tight rental market.

'If you mandate these sorts of things, you run into the problem where property owners consider, "Look, it's just another expense that I have to spend on the property, I'll sell it",' Mr Groves told the ABC.

Victorian rental properties will be required to have a mandated minimum standard of energy-efficient fixed heaters installed by next year, while the ACT is considering minimum standards on ceiling insulation.

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