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Federal environmental plan must include 'green' for Canada's low-income households

Toronto - When the federal government announces plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions and smog this fall, it must include a national energy efficiency program for low-income households, according to leading affordable housing, construction, environmental and anti-poverty groups and Toronto Mayor David Miller.

"Every Torontonian, rich or poor, should be able to make their home more energy efficient to sustain long-term savings," said Mayor David Miller. "Unfortunately, without the support of the federal government, this is not a reality for low-income households. This is as much about improving the quality of life for our most vulnerable residents as it is about improving the quality of our natural environment."

"Funding a national energy efficiency program for those most in need is a smart economic and environmental move," said Zee Bhanji, coordinator of the Low-Income Energy Network.

"Retrofitting low-income housing creates jobs and improves Canada's housing stock," added John Cartwright, President of the Toronto and York Region Labour Council. "By addressing poverty and climate change, we'll make Canada richer. On average, energy retrofit programs save three times what they cost."

Canada's poorest spend 13% of their income on energy, compared with just 4% for average-income Canadian households. Energy inefficient housing is a key factor, yet low-income households are the least able to afford retrofits.

"Toronto Community Housing spends about 100 million dollars on utilities annually, up almost 30% from a few years ago. We are investing our limited resources to replace old appliances with energy efficient ones, but we need the federal government to fund a program to help us retrofit our housing to make it more energy efficient and affordable for low-income households," said Derek Ballantyne, CEO, Toronto Community Housing.

"A flexible program is required to meet the needs of all low-income Canadian households, including those in private rental, owner-occupied and social housing," said Gordon Chong, Chair, Social Housing Services Corporation. "We need to work in partnership with the federal government in order to ensure lasting, positive change."

"Social housing providers would combine their limited resources with federal funding and utility sponsored programs towards needed energy retrofits to address climate change," said Sharad Kerur, Executive Director, Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association. "It's time to work together on getting a national program in place."

"Green Communities Canada (GCC) was funded by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, Natural Resources Canada, and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities last year to consult broadly in making its recommendations for a national low-income housing energy efficiency program framework," said Bruce Pearce, GCC's vice chair. "We met with Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn's staff in June - but winter is coming, and low-income households need action now."

Canada is currently one of the few Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries without a national low-income energy efficiency program. Both the United States and the United Kingdom have long- running programs in place.

For more information contact:

Cynthia Ross, Toronto Community Housing
416-981-4348; cell 416-882-3731

Green Communities Canada (GCC)
Green Communities Canada is a national association of 40 community-based non-profit organizations that deliver innovative environmental programs and services, with a focus on household and community action. GCC supports member organizations in working together to achieve environmental sustainability, including healthy ecosystems and communities, sustainable resource use, and clean air, water, and soil.

Low-Income Energy Network (LIEN)
Formed in 2004, LIEN is a network of anti-poverty, affordable housing and environmental groups. LIEN has over 60 member organizations, as well as individual and corporate supporters. LIEN coordinates multi-stakeholder initiatives for mitigating the impact of high energy prices on low-income households and ensuring implementation of effective energy conservation programs and policies

Ontario Non-Profit Housing Corporation (ONPHA)
ONPHA is the voice of non-profit housing in Ontario, uniting 770 non-profit organizations providing housing in 220 communities across Ontario. Founded in 1988, ONPHA's members include municipal and private non-profits of all sizes, with all types of funding.

Social Housing Services Corporation (SHSC)
SHSC is a non-profit, independent corporation created by provincial legislation in 2002 to support affordable housing in Ontario. SHSC offers programs and services - such as bulk purchasing, insurance, investment and information services - to help service managers and housing providers manage over 250,000 social housing units.

Toronto and York Region Labour Council
The Toronto and York Region Labour Council is a central labour body that represents 195,000 women and men who work in every sector of the economy. Its mandate is to organize and advocate on issues that are vital to working families throughout the region.

Toronto Community Housing (TCHC)
TCHC, the not-for profit housing corporation owned by the City of Toronto, is home to about 164,000 low and moderate-income tenants - about six per cent of Toronto's population. These families, seniors, refugees, recent immigrants and people with special needs live in 58,000 households in communities throughout Toronto. Formed in 2002, TCHC is Canada's largest landlord and one of the largest social housing landlords in North America in terms of size, budget and properties.

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Low-Income Energy Network (LIEN)
c/o Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario (ACTO)
1500 - 55 University Avenue
Toronto, Ontario, M5J 2H7
Phone: 416-597-5855 ext. 5167
Toll-free: 1-866-245-4182 ext. 5167
Fax: 416-597-5821