Two new loan programs in Toronto offer homeowners an affordable option to retrofit their property to improve energy efficiency and water conservation.

In 2014, Toronto launched two innovative loan programs: Home Energy Loan Program (HELP) and High-Rise Retrofit Improvement Support Program (Hi-RIS). Offered with no upfront costs and at a low interest rate, the loans target energy efficiency and water conservation upgrades in single-family houses and rental apartment buildings. Crucially, the cost of improvements is repaid over time via fixed installments linked to the property tax bill, meaning the loan is tied to the land not the owner, in case of sale. The program also has equity considerations, as owners’ eligibility is not tied to traditional credit ratings but to their rate of municipality repayment. So far, $5.4 million in low-interest loans have been committed to 111 energy projects.

3,200 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced each year after the full rollout of Hi-RIS

Cities100 – 2016

The programs’ “one-window” service makes the process as easy and streamlined as possible for participants, allowing access to utility incentives, energy advisors, and customer support in addition to financing. Furthermore, HELP and Hi-RIS are self-sustaining financially and do not impact the city’s taxpayers, as about 60% of the operating budget has been raised from third-party sources and the remainder is recovered directly from program participants through an administrative fee.

The challenge

The residential building sector accounts for 44% of Toronto’s greenhouse gas emissions, and the city has more than 1 million housing units that were largely built before 1980, when no energy efficiency requirements were included in the building code. Through its low-cost loan initiative, the city enables homeowners to undertake more affordable and much-needed building retrofits.


Economic For the vast majority of completed HELP and Hi-RIS projects, the future energy cost savings are greater than the upfront capital borrowed and financing costs.

Environmental Results from the first year of the pilot indicate an estimated energy savings of 25% and 28% for HELP and Hi-RIS participants, respectively.

Social With full rollout, Hi-RIS can improve the quality of housing for up to 549,000 residents, which represents 21% of Toronto’s population.

About Toronto

Toronto is the most populous city in Canada and the provincial capital of Ontario. With a population in 2016 of 2,731,571, it is the fourth most populous city in North America and is recognized as one of the most multicultural and cosmopolitan cities in the world. While the majority of Torontonians speak English as their primary language, there are over 160 different languages spoken in the city. Toronto is a prominent centre for music, theatre, motion picture production, and television production. Toronto is known for its many skyscrapers and high-rise buildings.

View profile

Global Goals addressed