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During a period where global fossil fuel corporations and national governments such as Australia and the US continue to avoid or delay tackling global warming, cities and local governments have been increasingly showing leadership in both mitigation of, and adaptation to, climate change (Gleeson et al, 2016). Moreland, an inner-city municipality in Melbourne’s north, recently developed an Urban Heat Island Effect (UHIE) Action Plan. This was in response to research which revealed that Moreland suburbs suffer excessive summertime heat, with temperatures reaching over 50 degrees Celsius. Research that informed the Action Plan revealed that social housing residents in the community are particularly vulnerable to heat stress due to a combination of factors such as health conditions, housing stock and being more likely to be in a particularly ‘hot’ part of the municipality.

The Cooling Communities project aimed to mitigate the impact of the UHIE on residents in ten social housing residences. Partnering with the Moreland Energy Foundation and two local community housing providers, Aboriginal Housing Victoria and Housing Choices Australia, alterations were made to dwellings, ranging from older free-standing houses to recently built apartments. The project created a set of recommendations which outline how to lessen the Urban Heat Island Effect in social housing.

The project explored key relationships, roles, and responsibilities in addressing heat resilience in social housing. Practical implementation processes, including risk assessment, formed a key part of the learnings and recommendations. The project also had a strong human focus, working with social housing providers and residents to address adaption to climate change impacts in the context of broader social issues and priorities.

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