Metro Vancouver Housing has begun canvassing its 3,400 households with information on how to stay cool during heat waves under a new policy developed following the 2021 'heat dome' that killed over 600 people in B.C.
According to the B.C. coroner, one in 10 of those deaths occurred in social or subsidized housing, not unlike the 49 sites managed by the Metro Vancouver regional government for seniors, families and people with disabilities.
The new "extreme heat protocols," outlined in a July 7 report to the Metro Vancouver housing committee, call for Metro staff to disseminate heat wave-related information to each apartment building in May. Memos encourage tenants to stay in touch with a person during hot weather. Housing technicians will also evaluate each apartment's air exchanges.
Every unit will be handed a 'Beat the Heat' pamphlet in the first week of June.
During heat advisories — defined as two or more consecutive days of 29 degrees Celsius heat — staff will ensure every apartment has a cooling room 24 hours per day, and temperatures will be recorded on daily walkabouts.
If temperatures reach 35 degrees Celsius, staff "will contact housing technicians to assess the situation and set up temporary cooling where possible."
The report also touches on cooling systems but stops short of a policy to install air conditioning in all new units. Instead, the housing agency will look at passive cooling measures for new buildings before contemplating cooling systems to consider increased energy use and greenhouse gas emissions.
The report does state ventilation systems (to address wildfire smoke challenges) will be "applied" in all new housing developments and major retrofits moving forward. And when existing systems break, staff are to "assess" the need to upgrade.