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Social housing to get green makeover

Thanks to $115,000 from the province

The Province of Ontario has begun to spend its new Green Investment Fund, starting with an announcement Friday morning in Guelph.

Just over $115,200 from the new $325 million fund will go to retrofitting about 53 social housing units in Guelph and Wellington County. The County of Wellington oversees social housing in the area.

Guelph MPP and Ontario Minister of Education Liz Sandals made the announcement at the county’s housing services office at 138 Wyndham St. N. The county was represented by Puslinch mayor Dennis Lever.

Sandals said the funds can be used to address a host of climate change remediation measures, including new heating systems, upgrading mechanical systems, energy efficient lighting and windows, insulation, or new hot water tanks.

While people may associate the production of greenhouse gases with polluting industries or heavy traffic, Sandals said one of the leading producers is inefficient buildings. All sorts and sizes of buildings contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, she said.

“Because they are inefficient they consume more energy, and therefore create more greenhouse gases,” she said.

The province’s cap and trade program will kick into high gear next year, she said. She explained that government revenue generated from the sale and trade of carbon credits has to go into the Green Investment Fund, and that fund can only be used to pay for projects that have an impact the reduction of greenhouse gases.

In the recent budget, $325 million was redirected from general revenue into the Green Investment Fund to kick-start it, Sandals said.  

She added that a total of $92 million from the fund will be used to improve energy efficiency in buildings across Ontario, starting with social housing.    

“So now we are taking some money out,” she said, referring to the funds for social housing retrofits in the County of Wellington. She called the spending a quick turnaround, given that the budget was only approved on Wednesday.

Dennis Lever said the county’s social housing stock was created back in the 1970s and 80s. He said insulation at the time was nowhere near today’s standards. The same applies for heating systems.

“This $115,219 will go a long way to helping us improve that,” he said, adding that the money will focus on electrical efficiency. A number of the housing units have electric heating systems.

There are eligibility requires, and efforts will be made to ensure minimal impact on residents while the work is carried out, Lever added.

He added that investment by the province in greenhouse gas reduction was overdue.

“I’m very pleased to see the province doing that,” he said.

The funding fits well with the county’s Green Legacy Program, which has an energy efficiency component for new buildings built by the county, and with the 10-year Housing and Homelessness Plan, which aims to provide safe and affordable housing for all county citizens, Lever said.

In a press release, Ted McMeekin, Ontario’s Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing said the initiative will result in “needed upgrades to older, energy inefficient homes to reduce energy costs and better serve tenants, while helping Ontario meet the climate challenges of today and tomorrow.”

About 20 per cent of Ontario renters live in social housing