Rethinking your living arrangements because of COVID-19 crisis? Dont forget climate change


Those rethinking their living situation during the coronavirus pandemic may be forgetting one crucial detail: climate change, experts warn.


The COVID-19-change has seen cooped-up city dwellers plan a move to the bush and beach, but new residents to these areas are at risk of getting stuck with a property that will become unsafe as the climate changes, Climate Risk director of science Karl Mallon says. “With sea-changes and tree-changes we need to think coastal inundation, bushfires and flooding,” Dr Mallon said. “If you grew up in one of those towns, you know where the flood zones are and how prevalent bushfires are, but if you move in you don’t. “It’s a known problem in the emergency management sector that the newbies are highly vulnerable because they don’t have the local knowledge.”


Dr Mallon has helped to develop tools to assess this risk. He says as climate change worsens, the risks will grow and areas which are not in a bushfire or flood zone right now may be in the not-too distant future.


If these risks were present, anyone moving to these communities should work to counteract them rather than not moving at all, Dr Mallon said.


“Our biggest concern from a property market point of view is that people build these properties unsuitable for the location and they won’t be able to get insurance and it also affects their safety and financial well-being,” he said. “People moving in with suburban expectations, they want to build the McMansion. “They want a slab on ground with a carport, rumpus room for the kids and they come in with all these expectations and they may not realise all the houses around them are on stilts because they’re in a flood zone.”


Experts also have a warning for those who aren’t moving far away but are looking to upgrade their home or find a house with more space such as a home office or backyard post-pandemic.


Heatwaves, which are already proving deadly as Australia’s climate changes, are another factor to consider, Renew sustainable housing advocate Rob McLeod says.


“Heatwaves are increasingly hitting across our cities. Western Sydney in the not-too distant future will be facing days of 50 degrees-plus,” he said. “What this means is our homes need to be prepared for that, particularly for vulnerable people who are at higher risk of health issues. Energy performance needs to be front of mind. If you are changing your living arrangements, now is the time to seek advice. Get an energy efficiency assessment done.”


Architects Australia director Brooke Dunlop said making sure a home was thermally efficient would grow more important as the climate heated up, for both Australians’ finances and health.


National energy standards should be lifted and the rating of each house should be disclosed at the point of sale, she said, but added that in the meantime buyers should check orientation, insulation, energy efficient appliances, and if it had any solar panels or heating.


“A house that works smarter for you is going to cost you a lot less in the long run,” she said. “It’s very important but some people don’t feel compelled to do it if it costs you money. “But it will save you money in the long run.”


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