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Green retrofit loan program delayed by municipal concerns

The new loan program would provide funds for homeowners to make green energy improvements.
Highways and Public Works Minister Richard Mostyn. (Chris Windeyer/Yukon News file)

A new plan to offer Yukoners low-interest loans for green home improvements has been delayed in the legislature after a struggle to get buy-in from municipalities.

“I have every confidence that this legislation will come back to the House next spring to be resolved in full while we work out the details with municipalities on how we are going to deliver this program to Yukoners collaboratively, together,” said Highways and Public Works Minister Richard Mostyn on Dec. 1.

The bill brought before the house would modify the Assessment and Taxation Act and the Municipal Act to allow for an expansive new government loan program.

The new loan program, dubbed “Better Building” by the government, would provide a loan of up to $50,000 for residential homeowners to make specific green energy improvements to their homes such as adding insulation or air sealing.

The target in the Our Clean Future climate change strategy is to complete 2,000 residential, commercial and institutional energy efficiency retrofits by 2030, and to launch the energy efficiency retrofit loan program by early 2021.

The Liberals had planned on the law passing by the end of the sitting, but support from municipalities — who would be collecting the funds — was lacking. Based on that, the NDP indicated they wouldn’t support the law.

In order to avoid losing the vote, NDP leader Kate White and Minister Richard Mostyn reached an agreement to delay the final reading until the spring sitting in 2022.

“I feel like what has happened is that there has been a compromise. I did not want to see this bill die today. I did not want to see the potential of this program die today. I did everything in my power to make sure that wouldn’t happen, so I am grateful that my pleas were heard and that what I was offering was accepted,” said White.

After the legislation is adopted, municipalities like Whitehorse and Watson Lake will be able to opt-in, allowing their residents to participate in the program.

The cost of repaying the low-interest loan would be tacked onto property tax bills — which municipalities have argued puts a burden on them to administer the government’s program, including such unknowns as what happens if someone defaults on a loan.

Mostyn said he is dedicated to hashing out details and finding a solution over the next few months in order to bring municipalities on board, including providing funds to cover administrative burdens.

Unincorporated communities, such as Carcross or Teslin, would be administered directly by the Yukon government and be automatically opted in.

Heating buildings accounts for 21 per cent of Yukon’s greenhouse gas emissions, and many older constructions are not as well-insulated as newer builds. As part of the program, the government plans to work with homeowners to determine upgrades that would result in at least a 20 per cent energy savings.

Loans would be attached to the property, rather than an individual, and could be transferred in a sale. The funds are meant to be both low-barrier and easy to access, tied to the Bank of Canada interest rate, which currently sits at 0.25 per cent.

“It’s the lowest rate of interest in the country, and it makes it possible for property owners to undertake projects that might otherwise be cost-prohibitive,” said Mostyn.

“We face a climate emergency. What is more important? What could certainly be more important than taking tangible action to deal with a climate emergency? I can think of nothing — nothing at all,” he said.

The Yukon Party criticized the Liberals for what they referred to as a failure to consult communities before bringing the legislation forward.

Contact Haley Ritchie at