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Climate change adaptation and the rental sector


The research employed an asset-based approach to understanding the capacities, assets and skills which tenants, landlords and housing managers bring to climate change adaptation. The project also took a pro-poor approach focusing on the adaptive capacity of low-income renters in the public and private sectors, addressing the equity dimensions of vulnerability and adaptation. In addition to analysing a range of secondary sources such as media articles, ‘green’ guides and policy documents, the research analysed primary data from interviews and focus groups, focusing on:

1. The assets of the rental sector in adaptation

2. Barriers which limit the capacity of individuals and organisations to exercise these assets

3. The relationships between the stakeholders – tenants, landlords and property managers – which underlie both assets and barriers to adaptation.

We found that the tenants we interviewed were motivated by concern about the impact of human activity on the environment, and exercised this concern through everyday sustainable household practices, as well as through engagement with community or political organisations. They believed however that their capacity to act in the home was inhibited by a lack of care from some landlords and property managers about the sustainability of rental housing. Public housing managers who were interviewed positioned the public housing sector as policy leaders in sustainability and adaptation, but as constrained by a lack of resources (human and financial) and the busy reactive nature of their work. Busyness and lack of resources was also seen as a constraint on private property managers’ capacity to advocate or arrange for sustainability modifications to the properties they managed. Property managers emerged as crucial ‘knowledge brokers’ mediating between landlords and tenants, but expressed a need for more information and training.

Both tenants and property managers acknowledged that the current shortage of rental housing in many areas was one of the most important constraints on tenants’ ability to influence the market through preference for more adaptive and sustainable housing.

The interviews and focus groups with tenants and property managers mapped out a strong asset base in the rental sector including: tenants’ strong visions for the future; property managers’ understandings of the tenant/landlord/property manager relationships, legislation, costing and procurement processes; organisational and community networks; and existing adaptive capacity already evident in the everyday practices. The research report makes recommendations in the following areas:

  • increased support for an enhanced role for property managers as advocates and knowledge brokers for sustainability and adaptation.
  • incentives and education for landlords to see investment properties as ‘ethical investments’ to enable tenants to adapt to climate change.
  • increased overall supply of rental housing, particularly affordable rental housing.
  • increased assets for tenants to enable investments of time and money in a secure ‘home’ changes to tenancy conditions and better communication with landlords.
  • government action on regulatory change to support the above changes, including action on housing supply and a review of rental building sustainability standards.


Instone, L, Mee, K, Palmer, J, Williams, M, Vaughan, N 2013 Climate change adaptation and the rental sector, National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility, Gold Coast, pp. 200.

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