Vancity and First Nations partner to retrofit homes.

Over centuries, Indigenous peoples have had a strong connection to the land they inhabit. For that reason, floods and extreme temperatures brought by climate change particularly affects First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples – who may be forced to evacuate, obstructing their right to remain in their ancestral lands and pass land-tied knowledge to future generations.  

Heat pumps and new windows go a long way in helping address health concerns such as mould or intolerable heat – which are more common now with extreme weather patterns. However, climate-friendly retrofits are expensive and rarely accessible to homeowners living in Indigenous reserves, who already face unique barriers to accessing mainstream lending products.

To support climate ready housing on reserves, Vancity piloted a multi-year retrofit program with four nations: Tsawout First Nation, Musqueam First Nation, ʼNa̱mǥis First Nation and Heiltsuk First Nation.

By the end of 2023, the program resulted in 192 home energy assessments, 186 new heating systems installed, and high efficiency windows installed in 18 homes.

A partnership for better ways forward.

For the Musqueam (xʷməθkʷəy̓əm) Indian Reserve, financing was needed to do the upfront work – including furnace disconnection and a new electrical connection, associated costs that rebates don’t cover – in order to secure government reimbursements.

January 2023 images of the retrofits in one of the Reserve's homes, courtesy of Ehsan Haghi.

Community Energy Specialist Ehsan Haghi finds that the heat pumps and windows will make it easier for homeowners to sign up for home energy assessments, which help secure more funding for additional upgrades.

"Thanks to the funding from Vancity, we’re lowering costs, increasing comfort and safety, and building trust," said Ehsan.

Thinking of the future.

This partnership is helping Vancity develop a formal granting program to support climate-friendly retrofits for on-reserve housing.

“We want to test how grants like this can keep the funds revolving, so that the money saved on energy bills can support even more retrofit projects,” said Krista Loewen, Community Investment Associate at Vancity.

Thus far, the overall retrofits from this project will reduce CO2 emissions by nearly 291.7 tonnes – which is equivalent to taking 59 gas-powered passenger vehicles off the road. In terms of utility bill reductions, the home upgrades are expected to help residents save between $1000 to $2000 in energy costs per year.


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