City, Vancity partner to HELP homeowners save money and go green
BY DEB ABBEY, VANCOUVER COURIER
JUNE 15, 2011
Increasing the value of your home with green upgrades is going to get a lot easier for Vancouver homeowners.
According to Dave Ramslie, manager of the Sustainable Development Program for the City of Vancouver, 55 per cent of current Green House Gas [GHG] emissions come from buildings. That compares to 32 per cent from light-duty vehicles, five per cent from heavy trucks and eight per cent from solid waste.
The numbers speak. Reducing the energy waste from buildings will have an immediate and long-term effect on the environment.
To that end, the city of Vancouver is partnering with Vancity to launch the Home Energy Loan Program or HELP to provide low interest, long-term financing to single family homeowners who would like to make energy efficiency improvements to their homes.
Mayor Gregor Robertson summed it up succinctly. "We know that energy prices are going to rise, and people across Vancouver are concerned about affordability. It's a major issue. By partnering with Vancity, we're making it easier for homeowners to make upgrades that improve the efficiency of their homes and help them save money on their energy bills. It's an opportunity to reduce pollution and create local jobs at the same time."
It's part of Vancouver's Greenest City goal to reduce overall GHGs by 33 per cent from 2007 levels by 2020. In order to meet that goal, 175,000 tons of ongoing annual GHG reductions will have to come from existing buildings. When fully rolled out, this program could get them to 90,000 tons and well on the way to sustainable city status.
The pilot program will provide financing for energy retrofits for 500 homes in Vancouver. Each eligible home will receive up to $10,000 at a fixed rate of 4.5 per cent (to a maximum of five per cent) for a 10-year term.
And you don't have to navigate the system on your own. An "EcoENERGY" auditor will be there to help you determine which green retrofits will give you the biggest bang for your buck in energy savings. They'll help you apply for the loan as well as other government incentives, such as the ones offered through LiveSmart (livesmartbc.ca), a program that provides cash rebates for specific home energy retrofits.
The proponents of the program are confident that in most cases the energy savings will cover the costs of financing for the homeowners. Projected GHG savings range from three per cent for homes one to five years old and up to 44 per cent for homes more than 50 years old.
The pilot has had its share of naysayers who think the project will put taxpayer dollars at risk. From where I sit, it looks as though Vancity has taken care of that. They'll start by doing streamlined standard credit assessments. If any borrowers default on their loans, the first $500,000 in loan defaults will be covered by the Vancity Community Foundation. In the unlikely event that more than 10 per cent of borrowers default, the city and the foundation will cover the next 20 per cent. Any further loan defaults will be covered by Vancity. With mortgage default rates under one-half of one per cent, it's a win/win for Vancouver taxpayers.
Derek Gent, executive director of the Vancity Community Foundation, says they're "very proud to be part of this next generation partnership in addressing climate change." He sees the foundation's role in the pilot project as "leveraging philanthropic capital, which can be used in concert with Vancity member deposits, with the city playing a key facilitation and support role. This program has a number of stakeholders who will benefit significantly from the greenhouse gas reductions associated with less energy use. Hopefully this will be a sustainable model which can be expanded and replicated beyond the pilot."
As the mayor mentioned, the overall benefits include "green jobs" that will inject new capital into the local building market. If this pilot program delivers as expected, it could be extended to as many as 3,000 additional homes per year within three years. At those levels, the city forecasts an additional $25-million infusion into the local green renovation market, creating thousands of new green jobs--highly skilled jobs--that will have a direct impact on the local economy.
Low-interest loans, energy savings, reduced GHG emissions and green jobs--this will be a popular program. Almost a third of Vancouver homeowners are already planning an energy efficiency retrofit. And more than half of the homeowners surveyed by the city said they'd be interested in low-interest loans for energy efficiency upgrades.
According to the TD Canada Trust Green Home Poll in 2010, 77 per cent of Canadians surveyed said they'd be willing to pay more for a house or condo that includes environmentally friendly features. Of those, 77 per cent say that cost savings on energy bills is a primary motivation.
The pilot project is scheduled to start in July. Look for more information at vancouver.ca or call 311.
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