Hamilton

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

The City of Hamilton will look at designing a home energy retrofit program, as long as it gets funding to cover most of the costs. 

Buildings count for 18 per cent of overall emissions in the Bay area, says organization

Mayor Fred Eisenberger said retrofit programs have come and gone based on "different governments" being in place, but was pursuing one now was particularly relevant to combating climate change. 

The City of Hamilton will look at designing a home energy retrofit program, as long as it gets funding to cover most of the costs. 

The initiative dates back to 2016, when staff were first directed to look at the feasibility of a program that helps people afford updating their homes in order to impact greenhouse gas emissions. 

Mayor Fred Eisenberger said in a general issues committee Wednesday that he was glad the city was back to exploring the option. 

"I think many folks in our community have done retrofits of their homes, but there are many, many more that need to be done, and a lot of them probably are facing barriers of income or affordability to be able to do that," he said.

"Certainly this program helps offset that in significant ways."

Program contingent on funding

The mayor said programs have come and gone based on "different governments" being in place, but pursuing one now was particularly relevant to combating climate change. 

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

All councillors voted in approval of designing a program and applying to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities for funding.

The city says it would involve a one-time project budget cost of $200,000. If approved, the federation would cover up to 80 per cent.

Homeowners would first have to have an energy audit before accessing any fund to help retrofit. 

Burlington is one step ahead

Buildings count for 18 per cent of overall emissions in the Bay area, according to Bianca Caramento, executive director of the Bay Area Climate Change Council (BACCC.) 

The city says the residential sector represents the second largest source of building green house gas emissions at approximately 885,651 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, which mostly come from space heating and water heating

Caramento said the council sees home retrofits as a "one piece of the puzzle" to bring these emissions down. 

The Bay Area Climate Change Council says buildings are responsible for 18 per cent of emissions in the area. (Bay Area Climate Change Council)

Burlington is already in the process of setting up a program, Caramento said, and BACCC has been helping them with their design. 

"Knowing that if we have a regional strength in this area, and looking to make retrofits affordable for folks in both Hamilton and Burlington, we're going to see the emission reductions that we need to see to meet our targets," she said. 

While the city says the most commonly recommended format is to place a loan on property taxes, which is paid off over time, how the program will work will be decided during the design process.

BACCC said it would also help, such as recommending the types of projects to include. 

Bang for our buck

The group performed three different analyses, which looked at different programs around the world, reviewed local context, and explored the cost benefits — anticipated changes to energy inputs, emissions, and utility bills for 12 common retrofit projects. 

Caramento said the council went through potential programs — like replacing windows or a furnace and insulating the walls — to compare the cost and emissions reductions and find out the "biggest bang for our buck." 

According to BACCC modelling in 2018, if Hamilton and Burlington retrofitted 98 per cent of dwellings by 2050, there would be thermal and electrical savings of 50 per cent. 

The city says the retrofit isn't meant to hit these targets alone, but be a "kick-starter program." 

Renoviction concerns

Trevor Imhoff, project manager of air quality and climate change, said the retrofit programs would be voluntarily.

But he hopes the city will use data — from sources like Hamilton's Airshed modelling system and Canadian Urban Sustainability Practitioners energy poverty rates across the city — so it can figure out what areas need the retrofits the most. 

He said BACCC has also researched concerns that retrofits could be used for "renovictions," where landlords evict tenants under the guise of home improvements. 

"They've spoken to the Landlord Tenant [Board] and other legal aid organizations to ensure that that doesn't happen and that is considered throughout the development of this detailed design," he said. 

Ian Borsuk, climate campaign coordinator for Environment Hamilton, said without the program, people might not otherwise have the ability to make retrofits. 

"This is extremely overdue in a lot of ways," he said. "I can see this being something that in five to 10 years the City of Hamilton really values and really looks back on as a key step that we took to really st to address the climate emergency."

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