City of Ottawa launches loan program for green home retrofits

·3 min read
Electricians install solar panels on a roof in Arizona. Ottawa's new loan program would allow homeowners to borrow 10 per cent of their home's value up to $125,000 to add green upgrades to their property.  (AP Photo/Matt York, File - image credit)
Electricians install solar panels on a roof in Arizona. Ottawa's new loan program would allow homeowners to borrow 10 per cent of their home's value up to $125,000 to add green upgrades to their property. (AP Photo/Matt York, File - image credit)

The City of Ottawa has launched its program to help homeowners retrofit their homes to become more environmentally friendly, but more staff and resources are needed at the municipal level to cut Ottawa's greenhouse gas emissions, according to a local not-for-profit.

Sana Badruddin, a project co-ordinator with Ecology Ottawa, says while subsidies for retrofits exist at all levels of government, people are needed to make them effective.

City staff could be crucial to helping homeowners make the transition to greener homes and educating diverse demographics about the support available, she said.

Badruddin told Alan Neal, host of CBC Radio's All In A Day, that 45 per cent of Ottawa's greenhouse gas emissions can be attributed to heating, cooling and electrifying homes and office buildings.

All in a Day is running a series called "Climate Change and the City," which started in August, that looks at how the nation's capital can reach its target of net zero emissions by 2050.

Listeners submitted ideas, which included home retrofits, and environmental organizations and the City of Ottawa agreed it is important.

Residential buildings alone account for 25 per cent of emissions, according to municipal staff.

The City of Ottawa launched its interest-free loan program for home retrofits called "Better Homes" in mid-November, which it had teased in July.

Homeowners can now apply for a low-interest loan from the City to help pay for retrofits, such as replacing windows, adding insulation, installing heat pumps or electric vehicle chargers.

A homeowner can borrow 10 per cent of the home's value up to $125,000 and the loans would be paid back over 20 years on property tax bills, and would be tied to properties as a lien. If the home is sold, new owners would pay the rest while living in the more efficient home.

Cities newer to retrofit landscape

Janice Ashworth, project manager for the City of Ottawa's environmental program, told All In A Day there is enough staff to manage the loan program, but this is all fairly new at the municipal level.

"The City has never played a significant role in this space before, so it's building up that expertise and working with the partners," she said.

The City has contracted the environmental non-profit EnviroCentre to offer energy retrofit planners to interested homeowners — the service is free to low-income qualified homeowners.

The planner can help decide what needs upgraded and navigate quotes and overseeing contracts, she said.

Matthew Kupfer/CBC
Matthew Kupfer/CBC

Ashworth also said she wants to see a program for commercial buildings and larger residential buildings like apartments and condos.

She said the city's plan for the next two decades calls for commercial buildings to be between 50 and 60 per cent more energy-efficient, and for homes to be 70 per cent more energy efficient.

Rules for new buildings will be equally, if not more important, she added, and municipalities are waiting on the federal government's upcoming release of a new building code model.

"The federal government sends out a model code, then the provinces adopt what components of that model code that they want, and then the cities regulate that code," she said.

Ashworth would also like to see more powers given to municipalities to enact programs that could provide larger incentives to retrofits, such as tying someone's property tax bill to their level of emissions — something the city cannot currently do.

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