featured Poverty

News brief: Heating bill relief for low-income renters

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Here is a bit of news that may benefit low income renters struggling with high energy bills, especially if heat is not included in the rent.

Landlords can now call upon Efficiency Nova Scotia for a free evaluation and substantial government incentives for energy efficiency upgrades. Upgrades can include things like draft-proofing, insulation and other efficiency options.

Average savings for oil heated homes are over $900 per year, so we are talking more than small change.

Free efficiency programs have existed for years for low income homeowners. What’s new is that now renters and landlords are also included, no matter whether you use electricity to heat your unit, oil or even wood.

This is something the Affordable Energy Coalition (AEC) has been championing for years now, says Brian Gifford, chair of the organization that aims to eradicate fuel poverty in Nova Scotia.

“There are  a lot of low income people who have trouble making ends meet, and one of the stresses is the cost of energy for electricity and heating at home,” Gifford says.

“Our coalition formed in the early 2000s to make sure that low income people have guaranteed access to electricity and energy generally, so that they can cook their food and heat their homes,” says Gifford.

Last summer a $500,000 pilot program paid for by Nova Scotia Power got started to help low income renters who use electricity to heat their homes.

Now the province announced that it will fund a similar pilot for non-electrically heated rental properties, to the tune of $1 million per year for the next two years.

As well, the government is setting aside $1.5 million to fund the development and delivery of a similar new program to support First Nations homes.

“We were concerned about landlords raising the rent, which undermined the whole idea, but rent increases will be limited for 12 years,” says Gifford.

It’s not entirely clear to what extent people on social assistance would benefit. Earlier we reported on Bernice, who lives in social housing and is on income assistance. Bernice saw savings on her power bill clawed back by Community Services.   

Click here to find out more. Note that this website does not yet reflect the new changes benefiting rental units. That’s not good. But there is a phone number you can call. Also note that only landlords can request the Efficiency Nova Scotia services, and that since this is a pilot project approval is not guaranteed.

April 5 2017, 2pm: Updated to reflect that only landlords can request the services, and that approval is not guaranteed.

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