Rebates Incentives and Financing

Better Homes Ottawa – Loan Program

The Better Homes Ottawa – Loan Program is a City of Ottawa pilot loan program for home energy efficiency retrofits. It aims to support local residents to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. 

About Better Homes Ottawa – Loan Program

This pilot program offers low-interest, 20-year loans of up to $125,000 (or 10 percent of the current value assessment of the home, whichever is less) to cover the cost of home energy improvements like thermal envelope upgrades (basement/attic/exterior wall insulation, window/door replacements), mechanical systems (thermostats and controllers, air/ground source heat pumps, solar hot water systems), renewable energy (solar photovoltaic systems), EV chargers (Level 2), and the addition of rental suites (up to a maximum of 30% of the value of the loan).

With low-interest, 20-year loans that are tied to the property, not the individual, the Better Homes Ottawa – Loan Program makes it easier and more affordable for homeowners to pay for these home improvements over time. The minimum loan amount which will be issued to an applicant is $15,000.

The BHOLP was launched in November 2021 with a total of $8 million in zero-interest loans and $4 million in low interest loans (3.25% interest) – these funds are being disbursed to the first round of applicants. On June 30, 2022, the City of Ottawa recapitalized the Better Homes Ottawa Loan Program by securing a $15 million loan agreement with VanCity Community Investment Bank. This will allow an estimated 500 residents of Ottawa to access fixed rate (4.33% interest), 20-year loans from the City to undertake energy efficiency retrofits and other home improvements.

Eligibility Requirements

Participation in the program is voluntary and homeowner-initiated. Eligibility requirements are as follows:

  • Residential, detached, semi-detached, townhouse, residential multi-unit buildings of 3 stories or less, that fall under Part 9 of the Ontario Building Code.
  • The property must have a property tax account with the City of Ottawa.
  • Property tax, utility bills, and all other payment obligations to the City of Ottawa for the past five years must be in good standing. If it is not, the homeowner must submit a suitable credit check.
  • The property must not be in either CHMC’s Mortgage Deferral Program or the City’s Tax Deferral Program.

All registered owner(s) of the property must sign a consent form agreeing to participate in the Program.

Eligible Measures:  

Financing that is received by a homeowner is designated for capital costs with an expected life expectancy of 20 years or greater and for measures that are permanently affixed to a property. Eligible measures for financing must be Energy Star certified where applicable.

The non-exhaustive list of the categories of measures eligible under the Program, subject to any permitting and regulations, includes:

  • Thermal envelope upgrades: attic, walls, foundation, and basement insulation and associated requirements such as attic ventilation, foundation drainage and waterproofing; air barriers, air sealing, and weather stripping; windows, skylights, tubular daylighting devices, exterior window shadings or films, and exterior door replacements (provided they are around heated space); green roofs.
  • Mechanical systems (space heating, cooling, and ventilation): thermostats and controllers, energy or heat recovery ventilators, air-source heat pumps, ground-source heat pumps, biomass wood heaters, heat distribution systems, duct sealing, fans, associated electrical equipment as required.
  • Mechanical systems (water heating): high-efficiency water heaters (e.g., heat pump, electric water tanks, etc.), drain water heat recovery systems, solar hot water systems.
  • Renewable energy and energy storage and EV chargers: solar photovoltaic systems, electric vehicle charging stations (Level 2), battery storage devices, associated electrical and load management equipment.
  • Water efficiency: low-flow toilets, hot water circulation pump and system, greywater treatment system, closed-loop shower water recovery system, rainwater harvesting system (subject to eligibility criteria).
  • Health and safety measures such as environmental remediation, electrical wiring and panel upgrades are required undertakings to permit energy improvements.
  • Climate adaptation improvements such as back-flow prevention valves, sump pumps, basement waterproofing, permeable pavement, and tree planting.
  • Other items (costs for “other” items combined must not exceed 30% of the total loan value):
    • Audit costs, permit costs, demolition costs, paint and drywall repairs related to insulation improvements, waste or asbestos removal related to retrofits.
    • Additional dwellings such as granny suites or basement apartments.

Get Started with the Better Homes Ottawa – Loan Program

Enroll in the BHOLP to receive the application form for the program and an outline of the next steps. See below for an outline of what to expect.

Application Process 

Step 1: Complete a pre-retrofit EnerGuide assessment. This assessment provides an NRCan EnerGuide rating for the home and recommends improvements that are customized for the home.

Step 2: Complete the Better Homes Ottawa Loan Program Application Form.

Step 3: If the homeowner’s Better Homes Ottawa Loan Program Application Form meets all requirements of the program, the homeowner is issued a Notice to Proceed. Here, the homeowner receives a Better Homes Ottawa Loan Program File Reference Number.  This typically takes 1-2 weeks.

Step 4: The homeowner can apply to any rebate programs they may be eligible for and get estimates from contractor(s). Eligible costs are those that are incurred after the Notice to Proceed is issued.

Step 5: Submit your Funding Request Form. At this stage of the process, a homeowner can choose to request 30% of funds upfront to cover deposits. This can take 3-5 weeks to process.

Step 6: Retrofit your home!

Step 7: Complete a post-retrofit EnerGuide assessment after the retrofit projects. This assessment provides an updated EnerGuide rating for the home.

Step 8: Sign the Property Owner Agreement and submit a Project Completion Report.

Step 9: The City of Ottawa provides the balance of the loan to the homeowner that they can use to pay contractor(s). This can take 3-4 weeks before you receive your final loan disbursement.

Step 10: The homeowner repays the loan over time via their property tax bill. A homeowner can choose to pay off the loan in a lump sum at any point without penalty.

FAQs 

GENERAL QUESTIONS

Does my home qualify? 

Eligibility requirements for the Better Homes Ottawa – Loan Program are as follows:

  • Residential, detached, semi-detached, townhouse, residential multi-unit buildings of 3 stories or less, that fall under Part 9 of the Ontario Building Code.
  • The property must have a property tax account with the City of Ottawa.
  • Property tax, utility bills, and all other payment obligations to the City of Ottawa for the past five years must be in good standing. If it is not, the homeowner must submit a suitable credit check.
  • The property must not be in either CHMC’s Mortgage Deferral Program or the City’s Tax Deferral Program.

What measures are eligible? 

If you have questions about the Better Homes Ottawa – Loan Program, or you don’t see the measure you want on the list, contact betterhomesottawa@envirocentre.ca. Please note that only costs incurred after you receive your Notice to Proceed are eligible to be covered by the loan.

What is the minimum amount I will be eligible for?

Please note that the minimum loan amount which will be issued to an applicant is $15,000.

Can I receive funding for upgrades completed before receiving program approval?

No. Any upgrades completed before receiving your Notice to Proceed will not be eligible to receive funding. Eligible costs are those that are incurred after the Notice to Proceed is issued.

Can I apply for the Better Homes Ottawa Loan twice? 

Yes, provided that you stay under the lower of 10% of the property value cap or $125,000.

What happened to the zero-interest loans?

The Better Homes Ottawa Loan Program had limited funding to provide zero-interest loans to applicants. This funding has been spoken for. The program is now able to provide 4.33% interest, 20-year loans. At a fixed rate over 20 years, this loan still offers the opportunity for applicants to save money through energy savings while improving the comfort of their properties.

PROGRAM TIMELINES

How long does it take for my application to be reviewed?

Once you submit your application form, the City of Ottawa will review your property tax and utility accounts to ensure you are in good standing. If you are a new homeowner with less than 5 years of payment history, we will request a Credit Score. A minimum Credit Score of 600 will be required to receive program approval.

How long does it take for my Funding Request Form submission to be reviewed?

Once you submit your Funding Request Form documentation it will take us 1-2 weeks before we send you your Property Owner Agreement. If documents are missing from your submission our processing time may increase.

How long does it take to receive my initial disbursement?

Your Property Owner Agreement will have to be executed by the City of Ottawa before the City’s finance department begins processing your initial disbursement. The total processing time is 7 to 8 weeks before your initial disbursement is mailed out by the City.

How long does it take for my Project Completion Report submission to be reviewed?

Once you submit your Project Completion Report documentation it will take us 1-2 weeks before we send you your amended Property Owner Agreement. Once approved, the City of Ottawa will be notified to begin processing your final disbursement.

How long does it take to receive my final disbursement?

It will be 4 weeks before the City of Ottawa mails out your final disbursement. 

RECEIVING & PAYING BACK YOUR LOAN

When do I receive the loan?

Applicants will receive the loan capital after they have submitted their final project documentation. When submitting your Funding Request Form You are able to request 30% of your estimated project cost in advance to help with deposits and other up-front costs.

What is the cost of borrowing and how is it calculated?

The cost of borrowing indicates the value of the interest that will be paid over the lifetime of the loan. This is included in the maximum eligible Local Improvement Charge (LIC), which cannot exceed 10% of property value, to ensure that applicants are taking on manageable loans, inclusive of interest payments.

What is the interest rate on the loan? 

The Better Homes Ottawa Loan Program offers a 20-year, 4.33% interest rate loan. This is a fixed interest rate loan over 20 years.

If I receive an interest-bearing loan, when does interest begin to accrue?

For applicants who receive interest-bearing loans, interest begins to accrue after you receive your initial 30% disbursement, should you opt to receive it. See Section 5 of the Property Owner Agreement for more details. Interest will only accrue on the 30% disbursement at this time. Once you receive your final disbursement, interest will begin to accrue on the full amount. You will see these total values in Appendix H of your Property Owner Agreement.

How long is the payback period? 

The Better Homes Ottawa Loan can be paid back over a twenty-year period, or you can pay it back as quickly as you choose by making a one-time lump sum payment.

Are there any administrative costs associated with accessing the loan?

Yes, there is an administrative fee equal to 4% of total loan value. This is added to your total loan repayment and paid back through the LIC over the 20-year loan period.

How do I repay my loan?

You will be able to continue paying your property tax bills, including the newly applied LIC, in the same way you’ve paid it historically – you can see the payment options here, and verify your MyService Ottawa account to verify what you’re signed up for.

For those who pay via Pre-Authorized Debit (PAD), your LIC will be spread out over ten payments per year (January-October). However, in the first year of your LIC term, your repayment will be spread out over just four payments (July-October). This will be reflected in the amortization schedule in your final Property Owner Agreement.

What is the option for early repayment?

You can choose to pay off the loan in a lump sum at any point without penalty. At this time, this is the only option for early repayment.

YOUR PROPERTY & THE LOAN

What does it mean that this loan is attached to my property? 

The Better Homes Ottawa Loan is tied to your property, and not on the individual’s credit rating.  That means that if you sell your home, the new owner will take on the repayment of the loan – and also all the energy savings gained.  This reduces the risk to you of investing in a property you may only own for a shorter period of time.  You’ll get all the energy savings gains while you live there, and when you move, the payments (and gains) transfer to the new owner.

How is the value of my home assessed? 

Similar to the process used to determine your property tax, your home value is based on your MPAC assessment.  You can find this value assessment on your most recent property tax bill or online at MyServiceOttawa (to set up an account, follow these instructions).

When will I see the loan on my property tax bill? 

The repayment mechanism this program uses is called a Local Improvement Charge (LIC). At present, LICs are applied once per year in May, in line with the annual property tax adjustment. This will appear on your property tax bill in June in the year following your project completion. The delay here is tied to the updates to the property tax billing system, which take place only once per year.

How will it show up on my property tax bill?

The LIC will show up on your property tax bill under the “Special Charges” section. LICs are applied in June each year. Prior to the LIC officially being added to your property tax bill, it will show as a pending charge.

My property is a designated heritage property. Does this impact the measures I can undertake?

If your property is designated under the Ontario Heritage Act, owners will need to apply for a heritage permit prior to undertaking any exterior work. It’s best to contact Heritage Planning staff to discuss how energy efficiency measures can be completed sensitively to ensure that any important attributes of the property will be protected and that any impacts on its cultural heritage value can be mitigated. There may be some creative solutions to allow for energy improvements and restoration together.

To determine if your property has heritage status, owners can check out the City’s geoOttawa mapping tool by turning on the “Planning” layer, and then its “Heritage” sub-layer, or by contacting a heritage planner at heritage@ottawa.ca.

Owners may also be eligible for funding through the City’s Heritage Grant program for Building Restoration or the Heritage Community Improvement Plan.

ENERGY UPGRADES & THE LOAN

What happens if I do not complete all the work I planned? 

Only the completed work and submitted receipts will be eligible for the loan value. The air sealing improvement requirement, if applicable, must also be met.

What is the minimum number of upgrades I need to complete for the program?

You will be required to complete a minimum of one upgrade based on the Renovation Upgrade Report you receive after completing a pre-retrofit EnerGuide assessment. If air sealing is recommended in your Renovation Upgrade Report, you will be required to show air sealing improvements as it is a requirement for the program.

What if I want to borrow more to complete all the work I planned? 

You can apply for a maximum loan of up to $125,000 or 10% of the value of your property, whichever is less. These funds can only be used to cover eligible costs.

How do I know which measures will save me the most energy? 

To be eligible for the Better Homes Ottawa Loan, you will need to have a home energy assessment by a registered energy advisor.  This report will tell you which measures will save you energy and will provide recommendations for your home on the order in which to do the measures, and a few possible pathways to retrofit your home.  You will also receive a report outlining how to get your home to net-zero energy.  Then, if you need more assistance, you can schedule a session with one of our Energy Coaches, call our Retrofit Navigator, or sign up for the full Home Retrofit Planner Service.

Why is a secondary suite considered an energy efficiency measure? 

Good question!  The short answer is that homes that share inside walls generally use less energy per square foot to heat and cool.  That means multi-unit buildings are a better bet for energy efficiency.  They also create more homes per square foot in the urban centre, which is great for densification and for addressing our housing shortage.  The City of Ottawa has a great resource on Secondary Dwellings that you can access here.

Does the program provide funding for natural gas-powered upgrades?

The program does not provide funding for natural gas-powered upgrades (for example: furnaces, water heaters) as the program promotes electrification.

Learn about other rebates and incentives