Climate change will cause increasing temperature fluctuations and longer heat waves. This will make home cooling essential, but adding and using cooling can be too expensive for low-income homeowners, including seniors. Incentive programs exist to help people make energy-efficient retrofits to their homes, but they can increase housing costs. This does not work for many low or fixed-income and senior households.
The Affordable home energy retrofit toolkit demonstration will explore making energy-efficient retrofits affordable for more households. It will work within Toronto’s existing Home Energy Loan Program to provide innovative retrofits to low-income and senior households. This approach aims to reduce energy costs, improve health and safety, and allow seniors to age in place for longer.
3 Key Innovations
Using existing local improvement charge program frameworks to offer affordable energy retrofits to more households, particularly low-income households and seniors.
Tailoring outreach techniques to reach those who aren't normally engaged in local improvement charge programs.
Analyzing retrofit options to target specific housing types that are both affordable and provide meaningful carbon savings.
Project scope and expected outcomes
Local improvement charges
More than 20% of Canadian households have energy costs that are greater than 6% of their after-tax income. This is defined as energy poverty by the Canadian Urban Sustainability Practitioners network. This makes housing less affordable, but seniors and people affected by housing affordability also are vulnerable to heat-related health risks. Their homes need cooling, but it can be expensive to install and it increases already burdensome energy costs.
Municipalities are implementing local improvement charge (LIC) energy efficiency loan programs to help homeowners make energy-efficient retrofits. These loans are linked to property taxes, so the property owner pays it back over time. This isn’t always suitable for low-income and senior-headed households, because the loan repayments often increase their housing costs. This means that many of the benefits of LIC programs might not go to those who need them most.
Prioritizing retrofit affordability
The Affordable home energy retrofit toolkit project is funded by the National Housing Strategy Demonstrations Initiative. It is a partnership with the City of Toronto and a group of public and private sector advisors and stakeholders.
The project will prioritize retrofit affordability for low-income and senior households. Its goal is to decrease emissions and energy consumption and costs, and to improve comfort, safety and climate resilience. It will use the framework of Toronto’s existing Home Energy Loan Program to test different versions of its approach.
Participants will be offered energy efficiency packages that include heat pumps and solar panels. These will be subject to change pending a home evaluation. The demonstration will also investigate other affordable retrofits that can achieve emissions, cost and energy savings.
Reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving energy efficiency
The initial focus of the project is seniors and those with fixed or low incomes. These groups are most affected by the costs of energy and the effects of extreme heat events. The energy efficiency retrofits will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve home energy efficiency by at least 15%. They also will allow seniors to age in place longer, staying in their homes and maintaining the fabric of neighbourhoods.
The demonstration may expand and refine its focus groups as it tests different methods. In particular, it will use demographic-based communications techniques to reach those who aren't normally engaged in LIC programs. The project will incorporate measures used in other locations such as prescriptive or performance-based combined energy and affordability measures.
A toolkit for other municipalities
A Toronto-wide program for affordability-driven retrofits will be created after the demonstration. This will operate within and expand upon the city’s existing Home Energy Loan Program.
A toolkit will be developed from the qualitative and quantitative findings of the demonstration. The toolkit will explain how to perform in-depth financial and emissions assessments of energy-efficient retrofits. It also will outline how to strategically communicate, involve and help residents succeed within the program. Marketed toward Canadian municipalities developing and rolling out LIC programs, it will explain how to measure and quantify program results.
Project Team: Volta Research Inc.
Location: Toronto, Ontario
Project Collaborators / Partners:
- City of Toronto
- Dr. Runa Das, Royal Roads University
- Building Knowledge Canada Inc.
- Halifax Regional Municipality
- Hero Engineering Inc.
Get More Information:
Email Innovation-Research@cmhc.ca or visit our website to learn more about the initiatives under the National Housing Strategy.