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2009: The year of the reno

There are a series of provincial and municipal programs that offer rebates.

Argh! The news at the beginning of the month that Ottawa is now offering a Home Renovation Tax Credit (HRTC) left me feeling as if I’d just missed the last boat to financial salvation.

I was just too late. We finished renovations more or less on my old homestead around fall, 2008, but the tax credit applies only to work performed or goods acquired between Jan. 27, 2009 and Feb. 1, 2010.

I started investigating a little more and found that missing out on the tax credit is perhaps not as devastating as I had initially thought. It’s worth 15 per cent to a maximum of $1,350 on a project costing over $1,000 to a maximum of $10,000.

OK, so I’ll revise my feeling that I “missed the boat to financial salvation” to the much less dramatic notion that I lost the opportunity to get a few bucks back from the government.

But I’m not one to be ungrateful. If you’re doing a reno in the next year, and your project costs around the $10,000 mark, you’ll maximize the savings from this particular program, and I’m willing to bet that you’ll be a happy camper once the 2009 tax assessments start coming back.

The tax credits apply to “enduring” home improvements, which covers a lot. It can apply to redoing a kitchen, refinishing a basement, installing a new furnace, windows, carpeting, flooring and resurfacing a driveway. The credit does not apply to appliances, furniture or routine maintenance. You can claim the tax credit on a home, cottage or condo unit owned for personal use. And remember that the work has a deadline; it must be complete before Feb. 1, 2010. Go to cra-arc.gc.ca or fin.gc.ca for more information.

But there are other reasons for good cheer when it comes to contemplating doing renos over the next year. There are several federal departments and levels of government that offer programs that could be financially helpful to you if you are an aspiring renovator, especially if you are undertaking improvements that save on energy or water use in your home.

For example, the EcoEnergy Retrofit Homes Program can save you up to $5,000 per household. No, it won’t contribute money for granite countertops, but it will reimburse you for projects that involve improving your heating system, ventilation, hot water system, air conditioning, insulation, air sealing, replacing doors, windows or skylights, or conserving water with toilets that use less water, for example.

But don’t just launch into it without taking a look at the requirements. You must first hire a qualified energy advisor to perform an energy evaluation of your home, and the eligible improvements (and eventually, the rebates) flow from this. See ecoaction.gc.ca or phone 1-800-622-6232 to apply or get further information.

There are also a series of provincial and municipal programs that offer rebates. The bottom line is that there may be a lot more government help available than you think that can help defray the costs of doing a reno. It’s worth checking.

There are many ways to save money if you’re willing to go green:

• The Ontario Home Energy Savings Program (homeenergyontario.ca), requires you to do a Home Energy Audit to find your home’s energy leaks and identify renovations that can lower your energy bills.

• The Ontario Power Authority offers rebates if you are replacing your old central air conditioning or heating systems with Energy Star qualified modals. See powerauthority.on.ca for further information.

• Enbridge Gas Authority (egd.enbridge.com) offers rebates on programmable thermostats ($15), water heater for new customers ($50), and Energy Star Natural Gas Heating system Upgrades ($100).

• The City of Toronto offers rebates for water-efficient toilets and washing machines. Check out www.toronto.ca.

– Sylvia Putz is a journalist with an interest in decor and design. She’s written for the TV show Arresting Design; sputz@arrestingdesign.com.