to a new provincial regulation, there is now a cost-free way for municipalities
like Barrie to fund homeowners improvements to save or even
written before on the benefits of solar, and of retrofitting to shrink gas or
electric bills. For both, the main obstacle is cash. Although energy savings and
renewable income return more than they cost, you must put up the money first,
then pay it back over time. By borrowing, you can avoid going out-of-pocket,
but that won’t work for everyone. Some can’t qualify for a loan, while others
are wary of taking on debt. Selling your home before the loan is repaid is also
there’s a new way to finance these projects. The municipality funds it through
a bond, taken at the lowest interest rate, then recoups the charges through an
increase in the improved home’s property tax, called a local improvement charge
LICs used to fund road upgrades or sewer improvements, and homeowners have no
choice. But the new regulation allows for voluntary agreements with homeowners,
for improvements to private buildings rather than public works.
monthly utility savings or renewable income repay the loan. There is no debt in
your name – the loan is registered to the property itself. If you sell, the obligation
(along with the benefit of improvement) transfers to the new owner, while if
payments aren’t made, the City can undertake a tax sale, so they can’t lose. The
City’s bond is paid down by the homeowner payments, so the cost to the City is
nil. The LIC can be set to recover all administrative costs and
even generate a small profit. It’s a real win-win situation!
of this LIC program are many. It will improve the quality and
value of our housing stock. It will reduce energy use and pollution, including greenhouse
gas emissions. It can help people with low income or poor credit, or improve
affordable housing without extra cost. The work will create local jobs and
support local businesses.
rules allow for a variety of renewable energy or efficiency projects. These
could include new insulation, new windows, a new furnace or air conditioner,
solar panels or thermal water heating, etc.
that is required for this to happen is for the City to take the initiative in setting
up a program to make this funding available to residents. If you’d like to see
that in 2013, please contact your ward councillor.
and growing trees affect more than just aesthetics; a glimpse at the real estate pages will show they raise the value of a home or street. But their
benefits, both environmental and financial, stretch far beyond that.
are nature’s sponges. Their leaves filter air pollutants like smog. Although
their pollen may cause some seasonal allergy suffering, they provide a year-round
benefit to asthmatics or anyone else sensitive to air quality. Their roots help
to clean soil and the water passing through it that recharges the streams,
lakes, and aquifers providing our drinking water.
also provide hidden financial benefits. By catching and delaying rainwater,
they reduce the cost to build, repair, and maintain storm water systems that
comes out of your property tax bill. By cleaning air they reduce illness and
absenteeism, and by cleaning water they help cut water treatment costs. Preventing
soil erosion reduces street- and storm drain-cleaning costs, too.
also improve shelter. When not cut down for materials or to make room for
buildings, trees around our homes make life more affordable. In summer, leafy
trees provide shade and evapotranspiration, lowering temperatures around your
house and reducing cooling costs. In winter, trees shelter your home from winds
that draw out heat, saving your heating bill. Over a 50-year lifespan, one tree
provides the equivalent of $160,000 of environmental services by creating
oxygen, cleaning water & air, and preventing soil erosion!
urban trees struggle. Many are cut down for development, of course.
Newly-planted trees take many years to establish. Without sufficient soil or
unpaved space, tree growth will be stunted, and the limited root systems of
younger trees are more vulnerable to climate change effects like drought. When
large areas are developed all at once and planted with trees the same age, the
city faces coordinated die-offs as they reach the end of their lifespan around
the same time. And pests can be a huge burden, including the expected arrival
of the emerald ash borer imperiling 180,000 Barrie trees.
this column for notice of the spring planting day when you can put your back
into it, or on Monday, let Barrie Chiropractic & Health pamper your back
and support trees at the same time!
approaches, and why not buy something local, organic, or do-it-yourself – or
something that’s all three!
December 1st registration opened for the 2013 season of Barrie’s community
gardens at Sunnidale Park off Coulter Street and at Golden Meadow Park by Hurst
Drive, with possibly another in north-east Barrie coming this spring. (You might recall I wrote about these back when they were just getting started up in 2010.)
book up quickly, so if you (or a loved one) care to garden this year, sign up
now. A regular 5 X 15 foot plot is just $20 for the whole season, a double plot
(10 X 15) only $40 (plus HST). That fee includes gardening from April 1 to
October 31, compost fertilizer, and use of a shed full of handy tools like
shovels, wheelbarrows, and rakes.
gardening seasons have been successful, so we expect to see every plot booked
this year. More gardeners means the gardens can thrive and grow, and there is
always a warm welcome for volunteer coordinators who can share time or skills.
gardener is responsible for keeping their own plot weeded and neat, which takes
only about 3 hours per week. To sign up, visit www.Barrie.ca
and enter “community garden” in the search box.
gardening isn’t for you, or you have your own garden space, here’s another
organic gift suggestion: soap berries, or soap nuts. These are the dried
berries from a bush grown in the Himalayas which resemble nuts or acorns, that
you use in place of laundry detergent.
put 3-5 of these nuts into a little cloth drawstring bag which goes into the
washing machine with your laundry. (For a cold wash, pre-soak them in warm
water for 10 minutes first). They contain natural surfactants that work like a
gentle laundry soap and get your clothes clean without any harsh or irritating
chemicals or perfumes. Since you can re-use them for several loads, a single sack
lasts many months, and they work fine in energy-saving HE machines like ours.
confidently recommend soap nuts, an effective organic alternative to chemical
laundry detergents. They come in different sizes and brands. The one I use is
called Earth’s Berries, and is available for purchase at Bodystream at 51 King
St in Barrie.