Idea #9: Public Funds for Home Renos

Idea #9: Public Funds for Home Renos
by: Colleen Kimmett

Central Saanich councillor Zeb King shelled out nearly five grand for a solar water heating system on his home, knowing he'd eventually see a return on his money, and then some, thanks to lower electricity bills.

The initial cost of installation remains the greatest barrier to making this technology more widespread, says King. That's why he is pushing council to use local improvement charges (LIC), usually levied for infrastructure like sidewalks or sewers, to pay for solar systems on private residences.

Matt Horne of the Pembina Institute and Nitya Harris of the B.C. Sustainable Energy Association presented the idea to Central Saanich council last year.

It would work something like this: Jane Homeowner wants to go solar. She chooses from a list of approved installers, gets a loan from the city to pay for the solar water heating system on her house, and pays back that loan through a surcharge in her property taxes over a number of years.

This system offers some unique advantages, explains Horne.

"Unlike a typical loan, which is attached to the person, an LIC is attached to the property," he says.

That means if the home changes hands before the system is paid off, the new owners pay the remaining surcharges. If it is paid for, the energy efficient home could fetch the sellers more money.

Also, lower electricity bills can almost entirely offset the tax surcharge, notes Horne.

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