Toronto residents now have fewer excuses not to make their homes more eco-conscious.

Today, the City of Toronto announced the launch of an enhanced Home Energy Loan Program (HELP) that will offer zero-interest loans and incentives to help Toronto homeowners make their homes more energy-efficient and reduce the emissions contributing to climate change

The HELP program has been offering low-interest loans to homeowners since 2014. 

“Currently, homes and buildings are the largest sources of emissions in Toronto, generating approximately 57% of total community-wide emissions, primarily from the burning of fossil fuels (natural gas) for heating and hot water,” said the City of Toronto in a press release. 

Through the enhanced HELP program, for a limited time, Toronto homeowners will be able to access a handful of measures to make their homes greener. This includes zero-interest loans of up to $125,000 for terms of up to 15 years; furthermore, 20-year terms are available for retrofits that include rooftop solar PV, geothermal, new windows, and electric heat pumps. Incentives for specific measures including electric heat pumps (which can replace a home’s natural gas furnace and air conditioner), rooftop solar PV, and deep retrofits that significantly reduce a home’s emissions are also available. 

Home improvements eligible for financing include electric heat pumps, insulation (attic, wall, and basement), upgraded windows/doors, air sealing, geothermal systems, rooftop solar PV, tankless water heaters, solar hot water systems, EV charging stations, battery storage, and more. Eligibility has been expanded to include tax-exempt properties (e.g. non-profit homes, supportive housing, rooming houses) in addition to the currently eligible detached, semi-detached, row/townhouses, and duplex and triplex apartment buildings.

Shutterstock 616155593Solar energy system with photovoltaic solar cell panels on house roof (3D Rendering)

According to the press release, the Government of Canada provided funding to enhance the program through the Green Municipal Fund, administered by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM), including a loan of up to $9.712M to fund the zero-interest loans and a grant of up to $4.856M. A portion of the funds will support the development of training, education, and resources for homeowners, contractors, and other industry stakeholders, including training for Toronto contractors to become a Net Zero Renovator, qualified by the Canadian Home Builders' Association. 

The new zero-interest loans and incentives will be available until the funding allocated for each is fully subscribed, after which homeowners can continue to access low-interest loans, says the City. Furthermore, addition to the loans and incentives available through HELP, homeowners may also be eligible for the federal government’s Canada Greener Homes Grant of up to $5,000. 

The City’s HELP program supports the goals and objectives of the City’s TransformTO Net Zero climate action strategy, which set Toronto on a path to reduce community-wide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to net zero by 2040, and its Net Zero Existing Buildings Strategy which recognizes the need to transform housing. The accelerated climate strategy was adopted by Toronto City Council in December 2021. 

“Improving the energy efficiency of our homes and buildings will be key to reaching our net zero target by 2040 and advancing our TransformTO Net Zero climate strategy,” said Toronto Mayor John Tory. “Ongoing investment and action from all levels of government will be required to address the climate crisis and I thank the federal government and FCM for this funding. I encourage Toronto homeowners to take advantage of HELP financing and incentives, as well as the federal Greener Homes grant, to make their homes much more efficient and reduce the emissions that are changing our climate.”

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The City’s BetterHomesTO program further supports homeowners with a one-stop website with information about a range of home energy improvements -- everything from air sealing and windows to insulation, heat pumps, green roofs and rooftop solar. This includes tips on what to look for when purchasing, cost estimates, and a list of all of the incentives and rebates available from all sources.

Improving the energy efficiency of homes is one of the most substantial things that homeowners can do to help address the climate emergency. And there’s no time to waste when it comes to taking action. After all, we're already seeing the impacts of climate change on the housing market -- and it inaction could ultimately harm homeowners when they go to sell, as buyers increasingly demand greater transparency on the climate risk front.

According to the City, the highest impact measures include replacing a home’s furnace with an electric heat pump (which can provide both heating and cooling), insulating from attic to basement, and upgrading windows and doors.

Yes, it can be that simple.