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Proposed loan program for home renovations in Saskatoon called unique

A home energy loan program propose by Saskatoon city administration would attach the loan to the property and be paid back through property taxes.
A home energy loan program propose by Saskatoon city administration would attach the loan to the property and be paid back through property taxes. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Steven Senne

Saskatoon city administration is proposing what it calls a unique home energy loan program.

The uniqueness, says Jeanna South, is that the loan is attached to the property, not the homeowner.

“Loans provided from the city are attached to the property being retrofitted or renovated and would be paid back through the homeowners’ property taxes,” South, the director of sustainability for the city, said Thursday in a statement.

“The loans are attached to the property and not the person, so the loan can be passed from one homeowner to the next if the property is sold.”

Administration said the loans will not impact credit ratings, mortgage limits or other personal debt limits.

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Loans could be used for window and door replacements, solar panel installations, heating and cooling systems or added insulation, South said.

“It will assist homeowners in paying for home upgrades that will reduce energy bills, make those upgrades financially accessible, help to make homes more comfortable, and it will stimulate Saskatoon’s economy, especially in the construction and renewables sectors,” she said.

The CEO of the Saskatoon & Region Home Builders Association says they have been advocating for such a program for a couple of years.

“We were very happy to see that we had common ground with the city as they were also working on that file,” Chris Guérette said.

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Guérette said a number of ingredients need to be included by the city to ensure its success.

“Those ingredients, in our opinion, would be to make sure that there’s labelling involved, there’s testing involved, and that you’re utilizing actual certified professionals to do that work.”

Only single-family homes would be eligible for loans between $1,000 and $50,000 and the homeowner must be in good standing on property tax payment.

There is also a one-time administration fee, currently proposed at $500, that can be spread out over the life of the loan — between five and 20 years, with interest rates matching the city’s interest rate on debt for the same term.

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City administration said benefits of the program include increasing property value, better housing quality and reducing greenhouse emissions.

Homes would have to undergo an EnerGuide home audit before and after a project is complete.

Guérette said the loan program proposed by city administration has two benefits.

The first, she said, is it keeps the economy rolling. The other is bringing older homes up to current national building code standards.

“Unfortunately, what’s happening with that is new houses are continually improving and we need more mechanisms to provide opportunities for homeowners to also improve the current housing stock,” Guérette said.

“This is one mechanism of many. It won’t be the silver bullet, but it certainly will be an important piece.”

The proposed program will be presented to the city’s standing policy committee on environment, utilities and corporate services on Feb. 1.

A backgrounder from city administration estimates the cost to administer the program at $380,000 over two years, with $2.5 million in capital required for the loans, which would be recovered.

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If approved by council, city administration said it will work toward launching the program later in 2021.

Click to play video: 'Challenges of renovating during COVID-19'
Challenges of renovating during COVID-19

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