COVID-19 reveals true liveability of our homes and neighbourhoods

The importance of domestic comfort for household wellbeing

Sourced from: AHURI. (2020). What has COVID-19 revealed about the liveability of our homes and neighbourhoods? AHURI Briefing, updated 12 May 2020 found here.

With most Australians spending more time at home and remaining longer within their local regions and neighbourhoods, the COVID-19 pandemic is revealing the true liveability of our homes, neighbourhoods, and cities. This Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI) summary highlights the importance of domestic comfort for achieving household wellbeing.

Small apartments

Isolation has made us think about the adequacy of apartment living. Ideally this type of living needs adequate physical space, daylight, ventilation, acoustic and visual privacy. The inability to control noise especially when sharing a small apartment with family or friends can negatively impact ones ability to work effectively.

Energy efficiency

When spending longer at home we might be putting our health at risk. Research shows that two-thirds of Australian homes are too cold for good health and cold and damp homes pose significant health risks, such as increased risk of respiratory disease.

We can counteract the issue by turning up our heating, especially as Australia gets colder but this ultimately will hit us in our back pocket. This is where we find that energy and water efficient homes are essential both to reduce the financial stress associated with high energy bills, but also to improve an occupants’ health and wellbeing.

Sustainability Victoria study

An AHURI research report on a Sustainability Victoria study from 2010 which targeted low-income households found that households whose homes were retrofitted with draught-proofing, top-up insulation, energy-efficient lighting, and water-efficient shower hoses saved, on average, nine per cent of their electricity and 16 per cent of their gas costs each year, worth approximately $120 in 2010 (approximately $145 in 2019).

The accessibility of energy-efficient retrofits has also been highlighted. Households renting are often unable to retrofit or encourage landlords to retrofit energy-efficient solutions. Some of the reluctance from landlords is because rental property investors do not believe the costs for retrofits can be recouped through higher rentals, demonstrating the problem of the split incentive between households and landlords in the rental market.

Improving homes needs to be front and centre for post-COVID actions and economic stimulus. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of housing and that by improving housing we can improve lives.