April 6, 2021
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Ecology begins at home

Dear subscribers,

This month we want to talk a little bit about the environment. Not just because spring has arrived and we’ll finally be able to spend more time outdoors (almost a luxury these days), but because signs that we need to pay attention to our planet are frequent and furious.

Since 1970, April 22 has been designated Earth Day. This annual event invites us, individually and collectively, to reduce our impact on the environment.

As players in the housing sector, it is important to keep in mind how our activities affect our ecology and energy consumption. In what ways can we act for the benefit of the environment? And by the same token, for the benefit of the people who live in our homes?

In 2017, the residential sector accounted for 13% of the country’s energy consumption. In the same year, greenhouse-gas emissions from residential buildings were in the order of 43 megatonnes (equivalent to emissions from all service industry buildings and almost 10 Mt more than that produced by the agricultural livestock sector).

Note that 81% of residential energy use is for heating (water or space). And in Canada, household energy sources vary widely. In Québec, for example, heat comes mainly from electricity. In Alberta, it’s mostly natural gas. The Atlantic provinces and the Northwest Territories are more dependent on petroleum products and biomass. Each energy source has its own challenges.

Comfort and well-being

In addition to being good for the environment, energy efficiency measures also affect people’s health and well-being. According to Centre program manager Amy Bolt, energy efficiency initiatives can improve overall tenant comfort, including noise reduction and better winter insulation. Environmental projects are also often opportunities to interact socially, she adds.

According to the Pembina Institute, “several studies indicate that health benefits could represent up to 75% of the overall benefits of energy efficiency retrofits.”

This Alberta-based think tank also argues that, “for at least one million Canadians who spend more than 10% of their income on their utility bills, meeting basic energy needs is a substantial burden. Prioritizing investment in energy efficiency in low-income and social housing provides particularly valuable societal benefits.”

At the Centre, reducing the environmental footprint of the housing sector is one of our priorities.

We understand, however, that for some housing providers, especially the smaller ones, environmental initiatives aren’t deemed essential as they concentrate on the basics, such as the fight to keep their doors open or to ensure that they continue to offer the lowest possible rent.

Also, some energy efficiency measures require a basic investment beyond the reach of smaller players—even though the long-term cost benefits are clear.

That is why the Centre has partnered with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities in its Green Municipal Fund. The Regional Energy Coach pilot project with the FCM—which will allow affordable housing providers to be more prepared to start, build and operate projects that reduce their environmental footprint—is ready to receive applications, says Amy Bolt, who leads the project for the Centre.

Your Regional Energy Coach can guide you in assessing the feasibility of energy-efficient retrofits and help you develop grant applications for FCM’s Sustainable Affordable Housing Fund, among others.

“We’re trying to shift [the perspective on] the environment from how it currently is, like an afterthought within some providers, to something that’s actually a central part of their organization,” says Bolt. “That’s a good thing for their balance sheet, but also for their tenants and the environment as a whole.”

Environmental initiatives should not be seen as a luxury, but as a reflex that benefits both people and the environment. We are here to help you carry out your projects. Please feel free to write or call us.

A new home for sector news

Since an essential part of the Centre’s mission is to connect and partner with sector, service, and community housing providers to facilitate sector-wide transformation, we have created a Facebook Group called “Social Housing • Logement social,” where sector organizations, staff, volunteers — anyone interested in housing issues, in fact — are encouraged to share news, promote their activities and to discuss the hot topics of the day.

We invite you to share the news widely, sign up to the group and contribute your own content and comments. You can find the group here

Get involved!

Build Together survey: we want your feedback!
Do you work or volunteer in a non-profit or cooperative housing group in Nova Scotia? If so, you are invited to complete this 20-minute survey. By participating by May 1, you will be able to enter your name in a draw to win one of two $250 donations to a community housing group of your choice.

Need funding? Start with the Self-Assessment Tool
The Self-Assessment Tool will allow you to identify your organizational strengths and weaknesses in a systematic, simple and thorough way. Once you have completed the process, we will provide you with feedback on the results of the assessment. You can use this as a tool for your board and management team as a base to see where you need to improve your capabilities. Get started

Articles & awarded projects
Smoothing the way for Indigenous collaboration
The ecological crisis affects daily life in very concrete ways in Canada’s northern communities. Since housing is the largest consumer of energy, the Indigenous Clean Energy (ICE) Social Enterprise seeks to share innovative approaches both within Indigenous communities and with the community-housing sector as a whole. Read the article
A person-focused model for people living with Alzheimer’s
In the Eastern Townships region of Québec, the non-profit organization 
Hameau des Cultures seeks to provide eldercare to people living with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Focusing on the human rather than the disease, its compassionate model of care is a breath of fresh air in a sector riddled with problems. Read the article
For Indigenous, By Indigenous solutions to housing crisis
The Indigenous Caucus of the Canadian Housing and Renewal Association has been busy in recent months. Taking advantage of the opportunities offered by the CHRA virtual conference in April, the Caucus is inviting the public to get involved in promoting the For Indigenous, By Indigenous strategy or learn more about it to help advance the Reconciliation cause. Read the article
Nova Scotians hoping to build strong bridges in community housing sector
With the active support of the Community Housing Transformation Centre and St. Francis Xavier University’s Extension Department, Nova Scotia’s non-profit and co-operative housing groups are exploring the need and desire to strengthen their individual and collective capacity to further develop the sector. Read the article
Sector events

Apr. 27 to 29, 2021 — CHRA's Congress on Housing & Homelessness

Mark your calendars for Canadian Housing and Renewal Association’s first-ever virtual Congress on Housing and Homelessness happening from April 27 to 29, 2021! Get ready for three days of learning, networking and engaging with leaders from across the Canadian community housing sector to have your say on key issues, learn about the latest sector developments, make connections across the country, and get inspired! Register here

April 15, 2021 at 10 am PST — Grant opportunities at the Centre webinar, with BCNPHA

Are you seeking funding? Join our program managers on April 15 at 10 am PST (1 pm EST) to see how societies in British Columbia have benefited from the Centre's funding streams, and learn how to submit the strongest application for available funds. Register now
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