Hamilton will design home energy retrofit program, if it gets funding

The City of Hamilton will work to develop a home energy retrofit program, provided funds are available to cover most of the costs.

The initiative dates back to 2016 when employees were first instructed to look into the feasibility of a program that would allow people to afford to upgrade their homes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Mayor Fred Eisenberger said in a general affairs committee on Wednesday that he was glad the city would re-examine the option.

“I think a lot of people in our community have upgraded their homes, but there are many, many more that need to be done and many of them are likely to face income or affordability barriers to do so,” he said.

“Certainly this program helps to make up for that to a significant extent.”

Program depending on funding

The mayor said programs have come and gone based on “different governments,” but pursuing one now is particularly relevant to tackling climate change.

“I think we can put our weight behind this,” he said, noting that it would also boost business for the “windows and doors” industry.

All city councils agreed to design a program and applied to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities for funding.

The city says it would mean a one-time project budget of $ 200,000. If approved, the association would cover up to 80 percent.

Homeowners would first need to conduct an energy audit before they can access a fund to support the retrofit.

Burlington is one step ahead

Buildings account for 18 percent of total emissions in the Bay Area, according to Bianca Caramento, executive director of the Bay Area Climate Change Council (BACCC).

The city says that the residential sector is the second largest source of greenhouse gas emissions with around 885,651 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, mostly from space heating and water heating

Caramento said the council sees home retrofitting as “part of the puzzle” to reduce those emissions.

The Bay Area Climate Change Council says buildings are responsible for 18 percent of emissions in the region. (Bay Area Climate Change Council)

Burlington is already in the process of putting a program in place, Caramento said, and BACCC helped them design it.

“When we know that if we have regional strength in this area and want to make retrofits affordable for the people of Hamilton and Burlington, then we will see the emissions reductions we need to see to meet our goals,” she said.

While the city says the most commonly recommended format is to provide a property tax loan that will be repaid over time, the design process will determine how the program will work.

BACCC said it would also help recommend, for example, the types of projects to include.

Bang for our money

The group conducted three different analyzes, examining different programs around the world, reviewing the local context and examining the cost benefits – expected changes in energy inputs, emissions and utility bills for 12 joint retrofit projects.

Caramento said the council went through potential programs – like replacing windows or a stove and insulating the walls – to compare cost and emissions reductions and find the “biggest bang for our buck”.

According to BACCC modeling in 2018, retrofitting 98 percent of the apartments by Hamilton and Burlington would achieve thermal and electrical savings of 50 percent by 2050.

The city says the retrofit is not just intended to achieve these goals, but is intended to be a “kick-starter program”.

Renovation problems

Trevor Imhoff, project manager for air quality and climate change, said the retrofit programs are voluntary.

However, he hopes the city will use data – from sources such as Hamilton’s Airshed modeling system and energy poverty rates from Canada’s Urban Sustainability Practitioners across the city – to identify which areas are most in need of retrofitting.

He said BACCC has also investigated concerns that retrofits could be used for “renovations” where landlords are selling tenants under the guise of home improvement.

“You spoke to the landlord [Board] and other mutual legal aid organizations to ensure this does not happen and that is taken into account when developing this detailed draft, “he said.

Ian Borsuk, Hamilton’s climate campaign coordinator for the environment, said without the program, people might otherwise not have the opportunity to upgrade.

“This is extremely overdue in many ways,” he said. “I can see this is something that the City of Hamilton will truly appreciate in five to ten years and look back as an important step we have taken to truly address the climate emergency.”

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