Toronto - Innovative Retrofit Financing through HELP (Home Energy Loan Program) and Hi-RIS (High-Rise Retrofit Improvement Support)


Toronto has over one million housing units, with the vast majority built before 1980, when the Ontario Building Code lacked energy efficiency requirements. The city’s building sector accounts for approximately 48% of city-wide GHG emissions with 80% of existing buildings expected to be in operation by 2050. A great economic development opportunity exists in Toronto for building renewal and energy retrofit opportunities.
To address mortgage underwriting challenges, Toronto worked with the banking and mortgage insurance sectors to develop a lender consent process customized for the Programs. Despite this effort, mortgage-lender consent remains an ongoing barrier to broader uptake. In Canada, mortgage underwriting is federally regulated and therefore beyond the scope of municipal jurisdictions. Municipal staff continues to advocate to Federal counterparts for regulatory changes that will pave the way for greater adoption of innovative financing models for energy improvements. 



Over $5.4M in funding has been awarded to 111 energy retrofit projects with approximately 30% energy saving per project. The Hi-RIS pilot has awarded $3.4M for major building retrofits, benefiting over 800 units. The average project delivers an average energy savings of 34% and a reduction of approximately 340 tonnes of GHG emissions annually. The HELP pilot has awarded over $2.0M for retrofits in 120 homes, and sees an average energy savings of 25% per project. Homeowners seeking financing through HELP most often undertake initiatives such as upgrading insulation, installing new doors and windows, replacing the heating system and air sealing, leading to average per-project GHG reductions of 2.5 tonnes annually.
The retrofits offered as part of the pilot cover a range of measures including: 
•    Building envelope measures: such as insulation upgrades, air sealing, exterior cladding
•    Mechanical system measures: such as furnace and boiler upgrades, high-efficiency water heaters, heat/energy recovery ventilators
•    Water conservation measures: such as low-flow toilets
Hi-RIS is part of the City's Tower Renewal Program which offers a number of initiatives that support improvements to the City's aging rental housing, help to create healthier communities and improve the quality of life for residents.


Projected Outcomes

The projected economic outcomes of the HELP and Hi-RIS pilots include the creation of 140 jobs, an increase in property value, utility cost savings and improved housing affordability. For most projects, the future energy cost savings are greater than the upfront capital and financing costs, with an estimated rate of return of 12% on capital funds disbursed with an average payback of approximately 10 years.
Toronto plans to expand and refine the Programs, subject a comprehensive evaluation, City Council approval, market analysis and industry consultation. The Local Improvement Charge (LIC) finance mechanism has the potential to be expanded to support various low-carbon and resiliency technologies on private properties in the city. Future applications may include funding district energy systems, renewable energy installations, weather-resilience improvements, water quality improvements from Toronto Water and support to commercial/industrial sectors.  The City of Toronto's Affordable Housing Office may also seek to use the LIC to enable disabled property owners to make accessibility modifications.