Whitehorse property owners could soon have a new option for borrowing money to help make their buildings more energy efficient.
The City of Whitehorse is moving closer to signing on to the territory’s Better Building program, an initiative that provides loans for upgrades that help bring down energy consumption in a building.
Property owners can receive up to 25 per cent of a property’s assessed value to a maximum of $50,000 for residential and $100,000 for commercial buildings through the loan program with interest rates kept at the Bank of Canada rate, the lowest in the country, currently at 3.75 per cent.
While the program is offered through the Yukon government, property owners must repay the loan amount through a local improvement charge (LIC) added to their annual property tax bill. That means property owners looking to borrow through the program must live in a municipality that’s signed on or own a rural property outside a municipality where property taxes are administered through the Yukon government.
Valerie Braga, the city’s director of corporate services, brought forward a recommendation to council that the city sign on to the program at council’s Nov. 7 meeting.
Braga said that when plans for the program were initially announced in 2019, the city was supportive of it, but had concerns around the implementation, as did a number of other municipalities. Those concerns have since been addressed following the efforts of a working group made up of representatives with the Association of Yukon Communities.
Territorial legislation required for the program to go ahead was passed in March.
“As a result of the working group recommendations, the City of Whitehorse will receive $500 per LIC annually to partially offset the costs to administer the loan,” Braga said. “The city will cover the balance of the costs to administer the program to reflect the city’s shared commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
“Other notable working group recommendations that are incorporated in the program agreements include a provision for additional funds in cases of payment default, the adjustment of municipal remittance timelines and the ability to review the agreement after two years.”
Braga said that while work on each loan will vary, the city is estimating between eight and 10 hours of additional work for each.
Among the work that may be involved for city staff: calculating the annual LIC for individual tax bills; answering questions about the program and referring property owners to the Yukon government; sending payments to the territorial government; monitoring late accounts and remitting those payments to the territory; collecting outstanding local improvement charge amounts through small claims court or collections where needed; keeping track of payments through an LIC master list; preparing payments for the territorial government; and answering auditor questions as well as pulling any backup documents as needed.
Answering questions posed by Coun. Ted Laking, Braga said the bulk of the work will happen in July when taxes are due (typically the first business day following Canada Day on July 1). With most property owners making their tax payments on time, Braga isn’t anticipating any major issues.
“So we are not concerned with the cash flow impact at this time,” she said.
The territory is anticipating loans for more than 1,000 projects prior to 2030 with most being in Whitehorse.
“The Better Buildings program will provide Yukoners and Yukon businesses with the support they need to make energy retrofits to their homes and buildings,” Community Services Minister Richard Mostyn said in an October statement announcing the start of the program.
Haines Junction was the first municipality to sign on to the program with Watson Lake town council also voting Oct. 18 to offer it there as well.
Whitehorse city council will vote whether to make it available in the city on Nov. 14.
Contact Stephanie Waddell at firstname.lastname@example.org