Vancity offers grants for non-profit housing retrofits

Dealing with heat an emerging concern in climate change adaptation

While electric heat pumps, like the one installed here in Bella Bella in 2018 by the Heiltsuk First Nation, are mainly to provide zero-emission heat in winter, they also provide cooling in the summer. | Submitted

Weather-proofing in Canada used to mean protecting homes against the cold, but with increasing concerns over summer heat waves, weather proofing is now starting to include air conditioning to protect against heat.

Last year’s heat wave killed 619 people in B.C, according to B.C.’s chief coroner, with most of the victims elderly people who died in their homes from heat stroke.

Air conditioning is now a potential life-saving device, and pressure in on for governments to undertake retrofitting projects that would include cooling, whether in the form of air conditioning, or electric heat pumps, which provide cooling in the summer and heating in the winter.

The Pembina Institute says B.C. needs to “future-proof” its housing stock.

“This can only be done through deep, energy efficient retrofits that protect residents from extreme temperatures and climate events, provide healthy air quality, and reduce the cost of heating and cooling, while lowering carbon emissions,” says Pembina Institute’s Tom-Pierre Frappé-Sénéclauze.

Vancity credit union is stepping up to help non-profit housing agencies do retrofits with a $5 million fund that will offer up to $80,000 in grants for home retrofits that improve energy efficiency, reduce carbon emissions.”

The grant is intended to augment other programs, like the CleanBC Social Housing Incentives Program, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ Sustainable Affordable Housing Program, and Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s National Housing Co-Investment Fund.

Eligible retrofit initiatives include:

  • replacing natural gas-fired furnaces, water heaters and air conditioning with electric systems;
  • improving energy efficiency; and
  • adding cooling and improving ventilation

"The targeted buildings house members of our community who are not only most significantly impacted by the housing affordability crisis, but also by the consequences of climate change," said Michaela Neuberger, executive director, for Affine Climate Solutions. "As we approach the anniversary of the 2021 heat dome, we are reminded of the importance to future-proof affordable homes to protect those who are most at risk in extreme heat."

Information on Vancity’s grant program is available online.