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Alternatives Journal, Environment, Toronto Politics

Toronto offering on-bill financing for home energy retrofits

A homeowner installing fiberglass insulation as part of Penticton, B.C.'s energy retrofit program.

A homeowner installing fiberglass insulation as part of Penticton, B.C.’s energy retrofit loan program.

It might be time to replace that aging water heater in the basement. Or that thinning insulation in the attic.

The City of Toronto is here to help, announcing last week that it’s taking steps to make it easier for property owners to make their homes more energy efficient through the Home Energy Loan Program (HELP).

Under the initiative, homeowners will be able to apply for low interest loans (from five years at 2.5 per cent, up to 15 years at 4.25 per cent) for use in retrofitting their homes to install high efficiency furnaces, air conditioners or water heaters, or to improve attic, window or basement insulation, for example.

The system is called on-bill financing, an alternative to traditional financing models such as asking the bank for money or putting charges on credit cards. It means homeowners approved for the loan will pay the city back over time via small instalments on their property tax bill to remove the burden of finding large sums of cash up front as an obstacle for making homes more energy efficient.

The item will appear on property tax bills as a Local Improvement Charge and, smartly, is tied to the property and not the savvy homeowner who made the decision to invest in retrofitting. In other words, if you sell your property before the loan has been fully repaid, paying the remainder of the loan will be the responsibility of the new homeowner who will also enjoy the benefits of living in a more energy-efficient building.

In Toronto, the city has made up to $10-million in funding for the three year pilot project available to qualifying residents in the city’s Black Creek, Toronto Centre, Riverdale, Beaches, Junction, High Park and South Scarborough neighbourhoods.

“Investments in energy efficiency and water conservation create high-quality jobs, reduce energy use and keep housing affordable,” said Scarborough Councillor Michael Thompson, who also sits as the Chair of Toronto’s Economic Development Committee. “The Home Energy Loan Program provides financing for homeowners that enables them to improve the energy efficiency of their homes, reduce energy consumption and cut costs.”

The HELP pilot is also a significant part of the city’s efforts at reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent from 1990 levels by 2050. Buildings, including individual residences, make up more than 44 per cent of Toronto’s GHG emissions.

One drawback of the program could be what seems, at first glance, to be an application process that’s too onerous for the average homeowner.

Are you ready?

After filling out a pre-application form, the city requires your mortgage lender – provided your mortgage hasn’t been paid off – to consent to the loan and proposed upgrade. Next, an energy assessment of your property must be conducted by an Energy Advisor certified by Natural Resources Canada who will recommend what upgrades are needed most. Then, if you’re still interested in upgrading and you qualify, you must supply quotes from independent contractors to the city for the work you want done, fill out a funding request form and then sign a property owner agreement form that is ratified by the city’s Chief Corporate Officer and City Clerk.

Whoa. Still with me?

Read the full article at Alternatives Journal.

About awreeves

Editor-in-chief at Alternatives Journal. Author of 'Overrun: Dispatches from the Asian carp Crisis'.


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