A MACEDON Ranges Sustainability Group project will aim to combat the disadvantages people of a low socio-economic status face while living in less energy-efficient housing.

The MRSG Healthy Homes Project inception was based on a report by retired Federal Government accredited energy auditor Bob Evans, called ‘Australian Children and Elderly Living in Poverty – the Hard Cold Facts’.

The report aims to educate communities on the stressors inflicted on people living in an inefficiently-energized home and the simple ways in which they can improve their standard of living.

The Australian Council of Social Services identified people of a low income living in less energy-efficient housing with inefficient appliances were more likely to experience adverse health and wellbeing impacts due to higher energy costs.

Mr Evans’ study in the Macedon Ranges demonstrated several simple energy-saving improvements could be made, resulting in at least a 30 per cent reduction of overall usage, and if these changes were not made people living in poverty would die as a result.

The study was commissioned by Christian Business Men Australia (CBMA) Macedon Ranges, who worked with Mr Evans to educate people on how poverty goes hand-in-hand with the cold causing avoidable deaths.

Mr Evans said the number of deaths by cold were alarming in a country like Australia and he believed most Australians would be shocked by his findings.

“Because housing represents a major fixed cost for those living in poverty, only the lowest priced accommodation is within their budget,” Mr Evans said.

“Spending on necessities such as food, clothing, medicinal treatment and winter heating are severely impacted.

“Children deprived of adequate food, clothes and other items can reduce their engagement with school due to hunger, shame and social marginalization.

“This in turn impacts on their education and job prospects, thus making the poverty cycle self-perpetuating.”

Solutions offered by the group include draught reduction, double glazing, use of curtains, more efficient heating systems, and the installation of insulation.

CBMA hope it will receive funding to conduct winter energy audits of about 20 to 25 homes in the Macedon Ranges.

The study also highlighted the positive effects correct indoor temperatures had on a person’s comfort and health and wellbeing.

MRSG is calling on welfare agencies, churches, schools, food banks, and other community groups to refer people who might be living in an energy-inefficient home to the project organisers.

After a referral is made, an audit of the home will take place to determine which residents or families are most in need of support – specific energy improvements will be implemented at no cost to the occupant.

Energy-efficient housing does not only benefit the occupants of the home but also the broader community through improvements to the region’s lower cost housing stock, as well as reducing greenhouse gas emissions through lower energy consumption.

The group are also calling on project sponsors and volunteers who can provide goods, services, or donations to support the project.

To find out more information or to volunteer, contact project leaders Bob Evans at evansrgw@bigpond.com or James Mackenzie at james.mackenzie@mrsg.org.au.