Protecting Urban Residents From Extreme Heat

With temperatures reaching record highs in cities around the country, local officials are implementing measures to ensure vulnerable residents have adequate cooling.

2 minute read

July 24, 2022, 7:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


After three elderly women died, likely from heat-related causes, in a Chicago apartment building, a city alderwoman introduced updates to the city’s existing heating and cooling ordinance that will ensure cooling as an essential right. As Rebecca Redelmeier writes in Next City, “The new rules, which the city council approved last month and have already taken effect, mandate that all large condominiums and senior living buildings have designated cooling areas where cooling must be turned on when the outside heat index exceeds 80 degrees.”

With current temperatures in Chicago hitting the highest numbers in a decade, the ordinance comes at a crucial time for residents. “While cities across the country have long had laws about winter heat requirements, getting officials on board with the reality and urgency of cooling needs has been an uphill battle. The stakes are only climbing higher as climate change causes more frequent heat waves and hotter summers.”

Cooling can also be unaffordable for many households. “Cooling’s potentially high cost is not addressed in the new legislation, leaving some residents unable to afford to cool their homes. Though public programs exist to help low-income families cover utility costs, most don’t include cooling cost assistance.” With temperatures steadily rising year after year, advocates say the city should do more to protect people from extreme heat. According to Mark Wolfe, executive director of the National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association, “this summer is a wake-up call. It’s what the future’s going to look like.”

Thursday, July 21, 2022 in Next City

Large blank mall building with only two cars in large parking lot.

Pennsylvania Mall Conversion Bill Passes House

If passed, the bill would promote the adaptive reuse of defunct commercial buildings.

April 18, 2024 - Central Penn Business Journal

Street scene in Greenwich Village, New York City with people walking through busy intersection and new WTC tower in background.

Planning for Accessibility: Proximity is More Important than Mobility

Accessibility-based planning minimizes the distance that people must travel to reach desired services and activities. Measured this way, increased density can provide more total benefits than increased speeds.

April 14, 2024 - Todd Litman

Wood-frame two-story rowhouses under construction.

Fair Housing Cannot Take a Back Seat to ‘Build, Baby, Build’

If we overlook fair housing principles in the plan to build US housing back better, we risk ending up right back where we started.

April 11, 2024 - James Jennings

"No 710" lawn sign on green lawn.

LA Metro Board Approves New 710 Freeway Plan

The newest plan for the 710 corridor claims it will not displace any residents.

6 hours ago - Streetsblog LA

Close-up of row of electric cars plugged into chargers at outdoor station.

Austin’s Proposed EV Charging Rules Regulate Station Locations, Size

City planners say the new rules would ensure an efficient distribution of charging infrastructure across the city and prevent an overconcentration in residential areas.

7 hours ago - Austin Monitor

Green hills with orange California poppies in bloom in foreground in Chino Hills State Park, California.

Making California State Parks More Climate-Resilient

A recently released report offers recommendations for keeping state parks healthy and robust, including acquiring additional land for conservation and recreation.

April 22 - Spectrum News 1

News from HUD User

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Call for Speakers

Mpact Transit + Community

New Updates on PD&R Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.