City will study free air conditioners for people with low incomes and health problems

Hamilton city council will study the idea of providing free air conditioners to people with low incomes who have health problems aggravated by the heat.

Eligible residents would be low income and also have ailments aggravated by the heat

City council will debate this summer to look into a program that provides air conditioners to low-income Hamiltonians with health problems aggravated by the heat. (CBC)

Hamilton city council is looking into offering a new program that would see the city hand out free air conditioners this summer to people with low incomes who have health problems aggravated by the heat.

Sam Merulla, Ward 4 councillor, envisions a program where people would qualify for air conditioners to use on days hot enough to generate heat warnings. Councillors agreed at a Wednesday council meeting to study the possibility.

"The reality is we're not talking thousands (of air conditioners)," he said. "We're probably talking hundreds, so it's not in any way excessive."

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The study will include looking at the impact of increased electricity costs.

It's not a particularly unusual idea. New York state provides air conditioners to eligible households through the Home Energy Assistance Program.

In 2015, more than 4,100 households got "cooling assistance," including 1,782 in western New York and 693 in New York City.

Right now, the city alerts the public when the heat is intense, and provides places for people to cool off, said spokesperson Aisling Higgins.

It's hard to say how many Hamiltonians would qualify for such a program. Currently, 19.1 per cent of people with activity limitations are considered low income.

Here's what else happened at the meeting:

  • Council ratified a decision to amend a bylaw to make parking spaces bigger to accommodate larger vehicles. 
  • Council ratified a decision not to enlist police to hand out parking tickets on Sundays, except in emergencies.
  • Council accepted a petition from ACORN Canada, an organization representing low- and medium-income families. It has 225 signatures and encourages the city to establish a bylaw licensing landlords.
  • Council ratified a plan of subdivision for Hamilton's Pier 8 development plan, which will include condos and retail space. Last week, a nearby flour mill warned the city was setting itself for years of complaints about noise and dust.

CBC Hamilton reporter Samantha Craggs tweeted live from the meeting. Read her tweets at @SamCraggsCBC or in the window above.


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