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Local improvement charges resolution passes at Union of BC Municipalities

Changes could allow for increase in green home upgrades

A City of Powell River resolution at the recent Union of BC Municipalities conference could help the city lower its community carbon footprint.

City councillor CaroleAnn Leishman said she was hopeful for the change, not only because the resolution she spearheaded passed, but also because other municipalities in the province have been looking at the idea to accomplish similar goals.

Leishman said Powell River council members met with BC community, sport and cultural development minister Peter Fassbender at the recent UBCM conference to explain the merits of the using the local improvement financing.

“We told him about our resolution and explained how this would be a real win if the province would give clarity to that being allowed,” said Leishman.

Local improvement charges are generally used to pay for the financing of local infrastructure, such as sidewalks, where the neighbours are willing to cooperatively pay for them. Leishman said using the improvement charges for green projects is something already permitted in Nova Scotia and Ontario.

“There just needs to be some clarification if the province will allow that financing model through the municipality,” she said.

The idea is that the city would set up a program where property owners can apply for loans for specific improvements, such as installing solar panels, and pay them back through property taxes.

Valley Building Supplies general manager Brandon Kennedy said an average home project with 15 solar panels costs about $11,000 to install.

“BC Hydro stores credit on your account as kilowatt hours,” said Kennedy. “It works out pretty well.”

Loans for local improvements would be issued from the city and linked to the property, not the property owner, said Leishman. If the owner sold the property before the loan was paid off, it would stay with the property, she added.

Leishman said Saanich has been looking at a similar program and is planning on running a pilot program in the spring to help homeowners remove old oil tanks buried in their yards.

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