Saskatoon city council moves forward with green home loan program

Councillors voted to start a project to loan residents money to retrofit their houses and make them more energy efficient. The administration said it could be running this year. File / Global News

Saskatoon city council voted to move ahead with a home energy loan program during Monday’s meeting.

The unanimous vote kick-starts work on a two-year pilot project, which an administrative report said could begin by the end of 2021.

One hundred residents could apply and receive a loan of up to $40,000 to make their homes more energy efficient, if the program is enacted at a later date.

Monday’s vote directs the administration to work ahead on the project, which includes drafting a bylaw and assigning funds.

The report specifies the administration will apply for an additional $10 million from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, which will extend the project by two years and open it to several hundred more residents.

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Mayor Charlie Clark said he was excited and complimented the administration’s efforts to move it forward during the pandemic.

“When some of the things like the roundtable got slowed down you kept going,” he said, “so we could provide this opportunity to residents to help drive the economy, to help bring down missions to help create jobs and to bring down people’s utility bills.”

The program would work like the city’s current lead pipe replacement initiative, wherein the city audits applicants before they are able to take part.

Councillors also voted to waive administrative fees for income-qualified residents.

John Paul Wasan, speaking on behalf of the Saskatoon Environmental Advisory Committee, argued no one should pay administrative fees during the pilot project.

“Residents are already carrying the costs of the audit, the upgrades and any occurred interest. And so also bearing the cost of the program administration will present disincentives,” he said.

He told councillors the advisory committee supports the program but said the city should do what it can to ensure the pilot’s success.

Chris Guérette, CEO of the Saskatoon and Region Home Builders’ Association, called it a “wonderful opportunity” and said she is eager to work with the city to identify qualified contractors and a warranty protection component.

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“What we’re really trying to do is protect the consumer,” she said, clarifying that she is “absolutely not” intending to prevent homeowners from completing the work themselves.

The administration said it will be able to report back on developments at a later date.

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Saskatoon city council votes to lower taxes on affordable housing projects

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