The Ontario Renovates Program helps residents of Ontario make needed repairs using a combination of forgivable loans and grants. By investing just a bit of time in the application process, you can receive significant financial help.
We’ve put together a highly comprehensive guide to the Ontario Renovates Program, including local information as well as application tips you can use to have a better chance of receiving some of these funds.
Ontario Renovates Program
The Investment in Affordable Housing Program (or IAH) is the primary program under which the Ontario Renovates Program component operates. Funding for the programs comes from both federal and provincial government sources. (The program serves both homeowners and rental property owners, but we’ll primarily refer to homes going forward, just for simplicity.)In basic terms, Ontario Renovates provides financial help to qualifying people to repair their existing homes. Those who meet income thresholds and who own and occupy houses with substandard construction can use the funds to improve the home’s build quality, reaching a minimum level of safety.The program has a limited amount of money available each year within each locality, so applicants aren’t guaranteed to receive any funds, even if they prove their need.
In most locations, the money is distributed to those who qualify on a first come, first served basis. This means it’s important to send in applications on time to have the best chance. You must apply in the area where you own the home.
Aim of the Program
At its core, Ontario Renovates looks to create better living conditions in households in need and to repair deficiencies in affordable housing rental properties.As an example, this program can help seniors stay in their homes longer, because they can use the money to make their homes safer. It also helps those with disabilities live on their own in a home by using the funds to make the home more accessible.For owners of affordable housing rental properties, this program creates greater accessibility in rentals for seniors or those with disabilities, while creating safer properties.The program delivers environmentally friendly benefits as well by employing energy efficient technology in low income homes wherever possible.Seniors, persons with disabilities, victims of domestic violence, residents of remote communities in northern Ontario, low-to-moderate income singles and families, and aboriginal people living off-reserve will be the primary recipients of these funds. However, eligibility is not limited to these groups of people. Anyone may apply.
How Funds are Awarded in the Ontario Renovates Program
A Service Manager, referred to as an SM, manages the Ontario Renovates program locally. This is a unique thing about the Ontario Renovates program: The SMs have rules they need to follow, but they also have the flexibility to make decisions that tailor the program to their local area and needs. The SM will ultimately determine the amount of funding to award to each project. Each SM receives a pool of funds to use annually, and the SM must then figure out how to distribute them.Under Ontario Renovates rules, no single project may receive more than $50,000. The average of all projects within an SM’s jurisdiction cannot exceed $25,000 per project. However, these numbers very likely will be smaller in your area.
Most of the funds for approved projects are made in the form of an interest-free, forgivable loan to the property owner, based on the cost of the approved work. A forgivable loan is one where the loan payments will be forgiven or deferred, as long as certain conditions are met. Should the conditions not be met, the loan must be repaid immediately, usually with interest.For home repairs, the period of forgiveness is 10 years. The amount forgiven each year is 1/10th of the total cost of the project. Should the property owner who received the project funding sell the property or no longer occupy it, the remaining amount of the loan must be repaid.For rental unit repairs, the period of forgiveness is 15 years, and the amount forgiven each year is 1/15th of the project’s total cost. The entire loan amount remaining must be repaid if the unit is sold or if the rents charged at the unit ever exceed the allowed limit.For calculation purposes, the loan forgiveness time clock begins on the date of completion of the project.
When performing accessibility repairs on a property under the Ontario Renovates program, you may receive a grant instead of a forgivable loan. (Some SMs may choose to include these extra funds for accessibility repairs in the forgivable loan, rather than issuing a grant.)The availability and amount of these grants is different for each locality, but the maximum amount for one grant under the Ontario Renovates program is $5,000.This grant does not require repayment, even if the property is sold down the road, as long as the funds are used for the stated purposed and approved by the SM during inspection. In most localities, you will need to provide confirmation of the disability from a licensed physician to qualify for the grant.
Eligible Repairs under the Ontario Renovates Program
Examples of eligible repairs under Ontario Renovates include the following.
- Electrical system
- Heating system
- Plumbing system
- Septic system
- Well water system
If any of the above repair options can be performed using materials that enhance the energy efficiency of the home, the Ontario Renovates program strongly encourages this wherever possible.
Should the home’s occupant have a disability, modifications that will make the home more accessible for the person are also eligible, including the following.
- Chair lifts
- Countertop height adjustments
- Bath lifts
- Non-traditional alert systems for things like fire alarms and doorbells
Beyond the actual materials and labor fees for the repairs, other fees that may be eligible for payment through the program include the following.
- Appraisal fees
- Legal fees
- Building permit fees
- Applicable taxes
Any other costs or repair projects the SM deems reasonable for your home also are eligible for program funds, which means there is some wiggle room inside these rules. If you have a project that is not typical, where you may incur some non-traditional fees, explain these in your application because they may be covered.
You must keep excellent financial records throughout the project, including copies of all invoices, should an audit of your project be requested down the road.
Ineligible Repairs under the Ontario Renovates Program
The Ontario Renovates program has a specific list of projects that are ineligible to receive funding.
For example, renovations at nursing homes, retirement homes, long-term care homes, and crisis care facilities are not eligible for these funds.
You also cannot use these funds to create new rental units, unless you’re creating a self-contained secondary suite or a garden suite in a home for a senior or a person with disabilities.
If you’ve started modifications prior to receiving approval for your project, those modifications are not eligible for these funds.
Cosmetic renovations, including painting, landscaping, routine maintenance, and kitchen cabinet renovations, are not eligible.
You cannot use these funds for mobility equipment, such as wheelchairs or scooters, either.
How to Apply to the Ontario Renovates Program
To apply to receive funds from the program, you will have to fill out a lengthy form in the locality where you own the property, and you’ll need to provide a lot of personal and financial information, along with verification documents.
Understand that the application process is a little different from area to area, so be sure to refer to your local rules (which we’ve listed and linked below) to give you the greatest chance of a successful application process. However, here are the most common aspects of the approval process.
- Finding the form: Most forms are available either in person from your local government’s housing authority or available as a printed download from the local web site.
- Describing Repairs: You’ll be asked to describe all of the repairs and renovations you plan to perform at the property with the funds.
- Income Levels: Most forms require you to indicate the income level of everyone living in the home, as well as provide additional documentation for proof.
- Asset Levels: You must list any assets you have available to you or to anyone else living in the home.
- Copy of ID: You will need to provide copies of your driver’s license and/or another form of ID with most applications.
- Signing the Form: After completion, all of the property owners must sign and date the form.
Application Consideration Process
After submission of the application, the SM will determine whether a particular project is eligible. The following items must be met with all properties. The SM does not have flexibility in these areas.
- Property Taxes: All property tax payments on the property must be current to be eligible to receive funds.
- Mortgage Payments: If the property has a mortgage loan, all payments must be current with the lending institution.
- Insurance Coverage: The property must have insurance protection for the full value of the home and/or project value.
- Below Average Rents: For a multi-unit rental property, units must be “modest” in relation to other rental options in the community. Additionally, the rents at the renovated property must “remain affordable,” which an SM usually defines as at or below the market average for the area, for 15 years after completion of the project.
Tips for Applying to the Ontario Renovates Program
Here are a few tips that can help you have a better chance at a successful application process.
- Apply on Time: Apply on Time: With most local governments, applications begin in the spring time of the calendar year. It’s possible that your local Ontario Renovates program will only accept applications for a few weeks each year, because it commits all of its funds in a short amount of time. Once the funds are depleted for the year, the applications process ends. This means it’s important to apply as close to the date the program opens in the calendar year as possible, so you can be near the front of the line.
- Read the Rules: If your local program has a short application window, you need to make sure you follow all of the rules the first time. If you don’t include all of the necessary information or if you fill out some forms incorrectly, your application may move to the back of the line until the proper forms are submitted.
- Resubmission Deadline: If the SM determines your initial application is missing some information or if the SM needs extra information, you may be able to keep your place in line if you return the application within a certain number of days. Make sure you’re aware of any resubmission deadline, as you don’t want your application to go to the back of the line.
- Be Honest: If you misrepresent your project or your eligibility to receive funds through the program, you will have to immediately repay any money you received. If you spend the money you receive on projects other than what was approved, you’ll also have to repay any money you received immediately.
- Changes in Eligibility: Although the Ontario Renovates program has specific criteria and numbers to help SMs determine eligibility, these numbers will be updated from year to year to reflect local changes in population, demographics, and average income levels. Additionally, the amount of funding your SM receives each year may change. So if you were turned down one year, you still might be eligible in future years as the criteria change.
- 120-Day Limit: Before applying, understand that you have 120 days to complete the repairs from the date of the final approval of your application. (This is not the date you submit the application, but the day it receives approval.) Some SMs give you a grace period (usually 30-45 days) to start work after receiving final approval. If you don’t think you can meet this deadline, perhaps because you have a medical procedure scheduled inside that time frame or you’ll be traveling, you may want to wait to apply until the following year.
- Try, Try Again: If you’ve missed the application deadline for this year, or if your local program is closed to new applications, you can reapply next year. Set an alert on your smartphone, mark the date on your calendar, hang a sign on the refrigerator so you see it every day – just do whatever it takes to remind yourself of the date for the start of the next application period. Most programs receive new funds on April 1 of the calendar year, but your locality may have a different date deadline for applying for the funds.
After Approval – What You May Need to Do
If your project receives approval, you may still have some requirements to fulfil, depending on how your local SM handles the process.
- Conditional Approval: Some SMs start with a conditional approval. This means your project is approved pending a few more steps. For example, you likely will need to obtain a certain number of quotes from contractors (usually at least three) for the work. The SM will then work with you to select the best bid.
- Final Approval: Once your SM provides final approval for the project, you must sign paperwork. You may then have a certain grace period to begin work (usually 30-45 days), or you may need to start immediately. Under the rules, you must complete the work within 120 days. Some SMs start the 120-day clock upon issuing final approval, while others start the clock on the day physical work commences.
- Ongoing Inspections: Once your project starts, you will need to submit to regular inspections during the renovation process. Each local SM will determine the frequency and timeliness of such inspections. These inspections are separate from any inspections required to fulfill building permits.
- checkEach local SM will determine the frequency and timeliness of such inspections. These inspections are separate from any inspections required to fulfill building permits.
- Additional Inspections: The SM will continue to perform inspections on the property for the duration of the forgivable loan, ensuring that the property owner is following all of the rules.
Local Rules for the Ontario Renovates Program
Understand that the SMs in individual cities and regions can slightly change qualifications or add other qualification requirements for homeowners. This can make the application process a bit confusing, as you may read a set of rules that are applicable in one local area, but that don’t apply where you live.Additionally, some of the local programs don’t use the Ontario Renovates name, choosing to use the locality’s name in the program instead of Ontario. Don’t be confused; all of these programs operate in essentially the same way with similar rules for eligibility.That’s why we’ve collected information about most of the local programs within Ontario as follows, ensuring you’ll have the proper information for your local area.
Brant County/Brantford Ontario Renovates Program
Brantford and Brant County have a combined Ontario Renovates program. The Brantford/Brant County web site contains information on financial limits for eligibility to receive funds, as well as a very helpful fact sheet about the program.To apply, you can download a printable sheet from the web site. Applications should be returned by postal mail or by fax.
Bruce County Ontario Renovates Program
Visit the Bruce County web site to find information regarding the Bruce County Home Repair Program, as well as an application form you can print.
The web site has some up-to-date information on income limitations.You can visit the housing office for a form as well. Return completed forms by postal mail or fax.
Chatham-Kent Ontario Renovates Program
At the Chatham-Kent web site, you’ll find a printable application form about the Ontario Renovates program. You also can pick up an application at the housing services office. The application form has extensive information regarding the program.
With this program, it’s required that you include a professional contractor’s estimated cost of the desired repairs and renovations with your application.
Cornwall Ontario Renovates Program
The Cornwall web site contains basic information about the Ontario Renovates program, including local income verification levels.At the time of this writing, Cornwall was not accepting new applications, and the web site does not have any printable forms. The web site says Cornwall will accept forms again in 2019, so visitors are encouraged to check back. This site also encompasses residents of the United Counties of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry.
Dufferin County Ontario Renovates Program
You’ll find some basic information about the Ontario Renovates program on the Duffering Coutry website, as well as a printable application package. You also can call the listed phone number or send an e-mail to receive an application form.
Greater Sudbury Ontario Renovates Program
To apply for Ontario Renovates in Greater Sudbury, you can download a printable application from the Greater Sudbury web site, or you can visit a public library or the housing services center. You can return applications via postal mail or drop-off.Applications for last year was closed. Visitors should check back with the web site for information on when 2019 applications will be accepted.
Grey County Ontario Renovates Program
You can download and print an application form for the Grey County program at the web site. The application form has extensive information about the Ontario Renovates program and eligibility rules.Contact information for questions or to submit your application is available at the Grey County web site.
Haldimand and Norfolk Counties Ontario Renovates Program
The Haldimand and Norfolk Counties web site contains basic information about the Ontario Renovates program, as well as a printable application form. Completed applications may be returned by postal mail or drop-off.The web site lists current local income limits for eligibility, and it has a form through which you can submit questions too.
Hamilton Ontario Renovates Program
The Hamilton web site contains eligibility information regarding Ontario Renovates, but it doesn’t have a downloadable application form. Use the contact information on the web page to obtain a form.
Huron County Ontario Renovates Program
The Huron County web site has extensive information regarding the program, making it a great resource. You can download a printable application form on the site, or you can visit the housing and property services office for a form.
Kawartha Lakes and Haliburton County Ontario Renovates Program
At the Kawartha Lakes web site, click on Homeowner Assistance followed by Kawartha Haliburton Renovates to see information regarding the Ontario Renovates program. You will need to contact the government to obtain a form.The deadline for last year applications passed April 30, so visitors will need to check back for 2019 application details.
Kingston Ontario Renovates Program
You can apply to the Kingston-Frontenac Renovates program through a downloadable form available on the Kingston web site. After completing the application, you can return it by mail or in person. The web site has local income and home value qualification limits as well.Understand that the application period is limited to only a few weeks each year, so make sure you understand all deadlines to give you the best chance of success.
Lambton County Ontario Renovates Program
Although the funds for the Lambton Renovates Program are not available at the time of this writing, you still may check back with the Lambton web site in the future for updated information. Additionally, the web site has a downloadable application form and an information sheet.
Lanark County Ontario Renovates Program
The Lanark County web site has information about the Renovate Lanark Program, but the last year program funds have all been allocated. Visitors should continue checking back to learn when more funds are available.
Leeds and Grenville, United Counties Ontario Renovates Program
You’ll find local income verification limits and other important information for qualifying for the Ontario Renovates program at the Leeds and Greenville web site. The web site contains a printable application form that you can mail to the governing body.
Lennox and Addington County Ontario Renovates Program
To apply for Ontario Renovates, you can call the posted phone number on the Lennox and Addington County web site, or you can send an e-mail.
London/Middlesex County Ontario Renovates Program
Most of the information on the London web site about Ontario Renovates is available directly through the London application form, which you can download and print. You also can obtain a form from the housing center.
Muskoka District Ontario Renovates Program
Visit the Muskoka web site to learn more about its Ontario Renovates Program. The web site has a printable form that you can use to apply for the program.The web site has a lot of great information on the program, including local eligibility requirements.
Niagara Region Ontario Renovates Program
Visit the Niagara web site to learn more about the Niagara Renovates Program. You’ll find an overview of the program at that site, as well as income and home value limits.You can download a printable form in either English or French from another section of the Niagara web site, or you can contact the housing authority to receive a form. Return the form by mail or fax.
Northern Remote Communities Program Ontario Renovates Program
Visit the Infinity Property Services web site for information on how to apply for funds from the Ontario Renovates program for those regions encompassed by the Northern Remote Communities Program, including the following.
- Parry Sound
- Rainy River
- Thunder Bay District (communities of less than 2,500)
The site contains a printable web form you can download and mail to Infinity Property Services, which manages the program for these areas.
Northumberland County Ontario Renovates Program
You can visit the Northumberland County web site to learn more about the Renovate Northumberland Program and to submit an Expression of Interest form. This form will put you on the wait list, and you’ll be contacted if you’ve been selected to apply for funding.You also can call the listed phone number or send an e-mail at the web site to gain more information.
City of Ottawa Ontario Renovates Program
The Ottawa web site for the Ontario Renovates program has an extensive list of eligibility rules, as well as a printable application form. The web site says Ottawa will accept new applications until the programs funds are exhausted.
Peel Region Ontario Renovates Program
At the time of this writing, the renovations program last year has been closed, and Peel Region is not accepting new applications.
However, you can visit the Peel Region web site for more information on the program and updates on the status of new funding in the future.
Peterborough Ontario Renovates Program
Information regarding the Peterborough Renovates Program is available at the Peterborough web site.
However, at the time of this writing, the program is not accepting new applications, so no downloadable forms are available. Visitors may check back for more information in the future.
Prescott and Russell, United Counties Ontario Renovates Program
Visit the Prescott and Russell County web site to learn more about its local Ontario Renovates Program, which fits under the Investment Affordable Housing umbrella.
Scroll down the web page and click on the IAH block to find the application form, which has a large amount of information about eligibility.
Renfrew County Ontario Renovates Program
Residents of Renfrew County can download an application form from the Renfrew web site or can pick one up at housing corporation offices. The application contains detailed information about the Ontario Renovates program.Completed forms may be mailed or returned in person.
Sault Ste. Marie District Ontario Renovates Program
You can download and print a package of information, including an application form, from the Sault Ste. Marie web site.
Application forms are available at the housing services office too. This package also serves Prince Township and Sault North Unorganized Townships.
Simcoe County Ontario Renovates Program
Simcoe County considers applications to Ontario Renovates in the order in which they are received. Although applications are accepted year around, some applicants may end up on a wait list.The Simcoe County web site includes updated information on local limits for gross household income and house values. It also has an application form you can print, or you can contact the social housing department for Simcoe County for a form. Applications are accepted by e-mail, personal drop-off, or postal mail.
Thunder Bay Ontario Renovates Program
We mentioned the Thunder Bay District earlier as part of the Northern Remote Communities Program, but the Thunder Bay web site also has some information you can access regarding Ontario Renovates, including a downloadable application form. If you live in a community of less than 2,500 in the Thunder Bay District, you should use the Northern Remote Communities Program. If you live in a larger community, use the Thunder Bay web site.Completed applications may be returned by mail or fax.
Toronto Ontario Renovates Program
Toronto’s program is called the Toronto Renovates program, and a form is available through the city’s web site.Completed application forms can be sent by e-mail, postal mail, or fax.
Waterloo Region Ontario Renovates Program
You’ll find a detailed fact sheet, including a list of local income levels that will be eligible for the Ontario Renovates program at the Region of Waterloo web site. The Waterloo program requests applications before Dec. 1 for the following year’s program.The web site has a printable application form that you can return via e-mail, fax, postal mail, or drop-off.
Windsor/Essex County Ontario Renovates Program
The Windsor web site for funding for the Ontario Renovates Program remains under development at the time of this writing, but visitors are encouraged to check back. You can contact the city of Windsor for more information.This web site handles information for Essex County and the town of Tecumseh too.
York Region Ontario Renovates Program
The program at the York Region web site serves several communities, including Aurora, East Gwillimbury, Georgina, King, Markham, Newmarket, Richmond Hill, Vaughan, and Whitchurch-Stouffville. The York Region program is called the Home Repair Program.You can find both an extensive guide explaining the program and an application form available for download at the web site. Or you can contact the York Region program manager to receive an application by mail. Completed forms may be submitted by postal mail, e-mail, or fax.
Wrapping Up – Final Words on the Ontario Renovates Program
If your local government is not listed here, its web site either has no information or outdated information. In that case, please contact your local government’s housing services or social services office to learn what it offers in regards to the Ontario Renovates Program. It’s also possible your local town or city program fits within a county or region program.Finally, understand that some localities may have exhausted their funds for the year, but they haven’t listed this fact on their web sites. If you have any questions at all, we’d suggest calling or e-mailing your local government to receive the most up-to-date information. Having current information before you apply will give you a better chance at success in receiving some of these funds.