Affordable Warmth Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is Affordable Warmth?
  2. What is Fuel Poverty?
  3. What is Energy Security?
  4. What is Low Income in Canada?
  5. What is Statistics Canada’s Low Income Cut-Offs (LICO)?
  6. Do all Energy Efficiency Programs in BC use the same Low Income Eligibility Criteria?
  7. What Programs and Services Exist to Make My Home More Efficient and ‘Green’?
  8. What is Green Housing?
  9. What are the Benefits to Green Affordable Housing?
  10. Is there an additional cost to building/renovating green affordable housing?
  11. Why is Affordable Green Housing Important to my Community?
  12. What is BC Housing Doing to Support Affordable Green Housing?>
  13. What is BC Non-Profit Housing Association Doing to Support Energy Efficiency in Affordable Housing?

1. What is Affordable Warmth?

According to UK statistics, warmth is considered to be ‘affordable’ when a household spends no more than 10% of its after tax income on home heating.

2. What is Fuel Poverty?

A household that is fuel poor is assumed to be unable to heat their home within a realistic cost. The term is relatively new in British Columbia. Currently no policy level definition of fuel poverty exists in BC. Fuel poverty is driven by the following three factors: (1) energy prices, (2) income levels and (3) building energy performance. Improvements to housing stock and income levels can help mitigate rising levels of fuel poverty in BC and Canada.

3. What is Energy Security?

Energy security is an umbrella term that covers many concerns including:

  • the supply of energy
  • economic growth
  • political power
Homeowners and housing providers are mostly concerned with having reasonably-priced energy, at adequate levels, when required to perform day-to-day tasks. Improving a building’s efficiency can improve energy security by decreasing energy demand.

4. What is Low Income in Canada?

According to Statistics Canada’s 2006 information, a person in low income is someone whose family income falls below Statistics Canada's low-income cutoffs (LICOs). The cutoffs reflect an income level at which a family is likely to spend significantly more of its income on food, shelter and clothing than the average family in that region. To read more about income in Canada and how poverty levels are determined, visit Statistics Canada Income In Canada: Low Income page.

5. What is Statistics Canada's Low Income Cut-Off (LICO)?

The LICO table is a poverty identifier developed by Statistics Canada. The table is based on three main determinants: (1) family size (2) income levels and (3) community size. For details, see Statistics Canada’s Low Income Cut-Off table for 1992-2009.

6. Do all Energy Efficiency Programs in BC use the same Low Income Eligibility Criteria?

No, not all energy efficiency programs in BC use the exact same eligibility criteria. The LICO table is the most widely used tool for determining base positions for poverty. Many programs take into account average annual inflation rates and wages to calculate a more accurate poverty line.

7. What Programs and Services Exist to Make my Home More Efficient and 'Green'?

Utilities, local and provincial governments, and financial institutions recognize the need to provide assistance to affordable housing groups to improve the energy performance of homes and buildings. Most programs provide funding assistance in the form of a one-time-grant to upgrade inefficient buildings. These programs are typically ‘free’ to eligible participants. The Affordable Warmth BC site is meant to guide users to relevant programs and services that may help reduce the costs of renovating or building homes to be green. Please review the Incentives page to locate relevant programs and services.

8. What is Green Housing?

Green buildings and homes are usually designed (and operate) to reduce overall impact on human health and the environment by:

  • efficiently using energy, water, and building materials,
  • reducing pollution to absolute minimum levels,
  • reducing use of automobile transportation,
  • protecting and conserving natural spaces,
  • reducing, reusing and recycling waste,
  • considering occupant health, and
  • using non-toxic materials.

To find out more about Affordable Green Housing, take a look at Enterprise in the US and their Green Communities Program.

9. What are the Benefits to Energy Efficient Housing?

A natural synergy exists between ‘green’ and ‘affordable’. The following benefits are offered through designing, building and rehabilitating buildings to be green:

For Homeowners

  • Operating and maintenance costs are reduced through high efficiency mechanical systems.
  • Health is improved through higher standards for Indoor Air Quality.
  • Housing market value is enhanced.
  • Utility bills are lowered.

For Housing Providers

  • Increased replacement cost schedule time through improved quality materials/systems.
  • Enhanced community acceptance; reducing ‘Not in My Back Yard’ perceptions.
  • Over-all quality and value enhancement to the housing stock.
  • Healthier, happier tenants.
  • Energy security improved
  • Reduced utility costs
  • Increased durability.

To read more about the costs and benefits to green affordable housing take a look at AWBC’s financing page.

10. Is there an additional cost to building/renovating housing to be energy efficient and green?

Studies indicate that greening costs are in the range (on average) of 1%-5% of total construction budgets. When analyzing the long-term savings accrued through energy efficient systems and immediate utility savings, the anticipated rising cost of home heating, and the extended product life through more efficient systems, the present value of green affordable housing compensates for the increased capital costs.

11. Why is Affordable Green Housing important for my Community?

Affordable green housing creates and supports dynamic and multi-faceted communities and places to live. Sustainable ‘green’ building design enhances (in many ways) existing spaces and reflects the environmental, social and economic values of a community. Diversity in housing options, from market-rate and affordable rental housing, as well as developments for families and seniors provides opportunities for all people to contribute to their communities.

12. What is BC Housing Doing to Support Affordable Green Housing?

Developing sustainable affordable housing is one of BC Housing’s core missions. In 2008 BC Housing launched its Livegreen Action Plan. LiveGreen intends to:
  • Build new facilities to achieve the highest standards in environmental design and construction;
  • Reduce energy consumption and green house gas emissions, including achieving a 50 percent reduction in emissions by 2020 from current levels by retrofitting existing buildings and by traveling green;
  • Decrease resource consumption and waste, including establishing recycling programs and completing water efficiency retrofits and reducing social housing construction waste in landfills;
  • Create and support a livegreen culture among employees through the establishment of the livegreen Employee Council;
  • Increase environmental awareness and action among tenants, housing providers and stakeholders by promoting environmental awareness and supporting green initiatives.
To read more on BC Housing’s Livegreen Action Plan follow this link.

13.What is BC Non-Profit Housing Association (BCNPHA) Doing to Support Energy Efficiency in Affordable Housing?

Through its Asset Analysis project, BCNPHA has been working with program partners to identify eligible and/or priority non-profit housing buildings for energy efficiency incentives, programs, resources, and funding opportunities. To find out more, please contact: research@bcnpha.ca.