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

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