A multi-solving approach to the housing crisis and climate change
Climate change and affordable housing are deeply linked. Extreme weather events impact the housing circumstances of the most vulnerable, earlier, and more severely than other residents. Aging buildings, rising energy costs and growing demand for affordable housing make it increasingly challenging for municipalities and affordable housing providers to meet their communities’ needs. The need to reinvest in affordable housing to reduce climate risks and transition to net zero is clear—but doing so without reducing affordability requires new solutions.
The Sustainable Affordable Housing (SAH) initiative was the first national initiative of its kind in Canada—a pan-Canadian fund supporting affordable housing providers to upgrade existing units or build new housing stock while delivering climate change mitigation solutions through deep energy savings and GHG emissions reduction. The funding and resources available through SAH are helping communities reduce energy consumption and GHG intensity, increase affordability, improve build quality, and enhance residents’ health and comfort.
Key to this initiative’s success is its unique design. For new construction, the fund leverages other investments to support the incremental cost of building toward net zero. For retrofits of existing affordable housing units, our funding incentivizes better environmental outcomes by increasing financial support based on the level of energy efficiency incorporated into a building.
- $53.5 million in funding approved for 61 projects
- 3,908 affordable units retrofitted or built
- 2,995 tonnes in GHG emissions avoided
- 55% of project-funded units at least 80% below median rent
Saskatchewan’s first net-zero affordable housing complex
Supported by a $500,000 SAH grant, the National Affordable Housing Corporation (NAHC) is undertaking a pilot project in Regina that is Saskatchewan’s first affordable housing complex to achieve net zero—earning it the 2022 Canadian Housing and Renewal Association (CHRA) Sustainability Award. The six net-zero units (within a 48-unit development) will feature a high performance building envelope, high-efficiency furnace and heat pump, improved domestic water heating and eco-drain recovery system, smart thermostats, and LED lighting. The prefabricated panel design will make this project highly replicable, which will help accelerate development of similar net-zero solutions across the province. Two of the six units will be further subsidized for families with complex medical needs.
Empowering affordable housing providers for greater impact
In collaboration with the Saskatchewan Environmental Society and the Community Housing Transformation Centre, last year SAH launched a customized version of the Building Operators Training (BOT) e-course to introduce custodians, maintenance personnel and building operators in the affordable housing sector to new energy-efficient technologies and facility retrofits. This free, self-paced online course focuses on some of the costliest measures for affordable housing providers: water conservation, electrical billing, lighting, electrical equipment and HVAC systems. Participants learn how to implement energy-efficiency projects, identify energy-and cost-saving opportunities, discover best practices in water and energy conservation, and use savings calculations to create long-term energy-efficiency plans. Since its launch in Fall 2022, 32 participants have completed the course successfully, with new registrants signing up monthly.
SAH also released Understanding energy efficiency: A guide for affordable housing providers, which offers practical steps to help housing providers increase energy efficiency, save money, improve resident comfort and reduce GHG emissions. Through this guide, affordable housing developers will gain a greater understanding of what is possible in terms of benefits and cost savings and get equipped with the knowledge they need to get started on an energy-efficiency project.
HOW WE WORK TOGETHER:
SAH Regional Energy Coaches and Community of Practice
Our SAH Regional Energy Coaches help affordable housing providers plan and initiate energy-efficient retrofits and new builds through project management, technical support and energy assessments. They assist in identifying opportunities for energy retrofits and evaluating their feasibility, demonstrate technologies housing providers can leverage, help with funding applications, and more. In the second year of the pilot, the RECs supported 124 housing providers and had 395 one-on-one interactions. 72 percent of REC clients reported that they feel motivated to apply the learnings acquired in the interactions with the RECs to their projects.
The SAH Regional Energy Coaches are delivered in partnership with the Community Housing Transformation Centre, the Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada, and the BC Non-Profit Housing Association.
The SAH Community of Practice (CoP) brings together 13 organizations for training, coaching and peer-to-peer exchanges on energy efficiency in affordable housing. Last year, it included five sessions, two in the spring of 2022, two in the fall of 2022 and one in February 2023, that featured a project spotlight of a SAH-funded pilot currently in construction, presentations on funding and financing energy retrofit capital projects, and coaching from FCM staff. A drop-in session on how to prioritize energy conservation measures was also held in conjunction with the Community Buildings Retrofit (CBR) initiative, with participants learning about renewable energy, building envelopes and heat recovery.