Los Angeles City Council Considers Air Conditioning Mandate for All Rentals
At the end of last month, the L.A. City Council unanimously voted to move forward with a plan to mandate air conditioning in all rental units within the city.
Historically, the city has had relatively mild weather year-round, which hasn’t warranted an AC mandate. However, in recent years, the area is facing increasingly warm temperatures during the summer, causing councilmembers to reevaluate the need for a mandate.
Extreme temperatures are no joke, and statistics show that in Los Angeles, they are a frequent cause of medical problems, and even death. This new environmental challenge is just one of the many impacts of climate change on coastal housing and real estate.
From 2010 to 2019, over 3,900 deaths in Los Angeles were caused by extreme heat. Just last year, the city faced a 10-day long heatwave that dramatically exceeded temperature records. By the end of it, there had been 146 emergency responses to calls related to heat exhaustion or “environmental hyperthermia”.
Councilmember Eunisses Hernandez argues that “at this point in the climate emergency, the ability to cool one’s home cannot be considered a luxury and rather must be treated as a necessity.” She went on to say, “requiring cooling apparati for all residential units could be a lifesaving measure for countless Angelenos during extreme heat events.”
Other preparations to deal with the heat in the West Coast are already underway. The state of California created a framework for an extreme heat action plan last year, and dedicated $800 million to the cause. The plan will include a statewide warning and ranking system for extreme heat events to help warn the public of these environmental dangers. This is scheduled to launch by 2025.
The motion that the L.A. council approved doesn’t implement the mandate yet, but simply initiated a feasibility study. The city will look at the energy and financial costs associated with updating building code to require air conditioning.
The mandate isn’t expected to be cheap, and the costs are likely going to fall on the shoulders of landlords and tenants. Installing air conditioning systems can cost tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the size of the building, and maintenance can cost another $1,000 on average each year.
While landlords may be able to raise rates following such a property upgrade, the initial cost is too steep for some property owners. Many mom-and-pop landlords are worried that they won’t be able to afford the upgrade and will be forced to sell their property instead.
Daniel Yukelson, the executive director of the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles, argues that “well over 80% of rental properties in Los Angeles are owned by independent, mom-and-pop housing providers who do not have the financial wherewithal today to comply with the new requirements.”
The city is considering financial aid opportunities such as utility subsidies for tenants, but hasn’t revealed any plans for assistance for building operators and installations.
The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is to explore the implications the mandate would have on the city’s electrical grid. Between California’s addition of more grid battery storage in recent years and the efficiency of new AC systems, this isn’t expected to be an issue. Jeff Monford from the Southern California Edison says “the grid is robust, reliable, and ready.”