Social housing boards in northwestern Ontario are looking toward the sun in their search for financial help as the government tightens its belt.

The Thunder Bay District Social Services Board recently installed solar panels on top of two of its housing complexes — something that chief administrator Bill Bradica said is expected to bring in more than $100,000 a year.

Where are the solar panels being installed?

  • Thunder Bay: Spence Court, McIvor Court
  • Kenora: Maples Apartments, Trillium Apartments, Amethyst Apartments, Parkview Apartments
  • Dryden: Victoria Apartments, Van Horne Apartments
  • Sioux Lookout: Patricia Plaza
  • Ear Falls: Sunset Leisure Place

"It was a way to ... look at paying for some of the maintenance costs or capital costs related to the housing portfolio ... given the financial climate," he said.

The board sells the energy from the solar panels to the Ontario Power Authority. 

Taking advantage of the opportunity made sense because "a number of our buildings have large roof areas that essentially … aren't being used for any other purpose," Bradica said.

"There's a ready ... supply of area that can be used to put these panels on."

The head of the Kenora District Services Board couldn’t agree more.

In the last year, it installed solar panels on eight social housing buildings in an effort to generate revenue Dan McNeill said, as "the provincial and federal continued contribution to public housing does not look that rosy for the short term or in the long term."

McNeill said the solar energy from those panels should bring in about $80,000 a year.

Bradica noted the "environmental friendliness" of the project is appealing, but the biggest pull is "trying to ... generate other sources of revenue given the funding envelope that we expect to continue to shrink from upper levels of government."