This research examined energy hardship within Australia’s rental housing market and considered strategies and policy actions to reduce its impact on the lives of Australian households.
Energy hardship includes absolute measures of financial hardship; consensual or subjective reflections on households’ lived experiences; and circumstances where residents limit their energy use for normal daily activities.
Household expenditure on domestic fuel and power, as a proportion of total expenditure, rose in the period 2009–10 to 2015–16 by up to 37 per cent. Up to 40% of Australian households who rent their housing experience energy hardship. Both private and social renters are frequently found to experience a higher likelihood of being exposed to energy hardship than people in other tenures.
Formulating effective solutions to problems of unaffordable energy and thermally inefficient housing in the low-cost rental sector is particularly challenging because of ‘split incentives’—where the landlord pays for improvements that provide them with no immediate or direct financial benefit—and other tenancy and financial barriers.
Having minimum standards for the energy-performance of rental homes is a critical starting point and must underpin all other policy strategies. Similarly, mandatory disclosure of dwelling performance was seen as a potentially powerful tool to aid residents in their selection of properties, and as a way of monitoring compliance with minimum standards.