EDMONTON -- Homeowners will pay less than half what a typical household does for its heating bill when they move into Edmonton's new Blatchford neighbourhood, which could happen as early as February, according to city officials.

The first energy efficient homes are now being completed in the area following years of underground work on its geothermal heating and cooling system.

"The system is ready to go and hook up to. I got a tour of it the other day, it looks great," said Coun. Ben Henderson. 

The city owns Blatchford's utility system, allowing it to set the rate for its eventual residents. 

"We're really trying to make the rates competitive," said Henderson. "If you make the rates way too high, then a lot of the incentives for people to go to Blatchford disappear." 

The average Alberta household uses an average of $130 a month on its heating bill, according to the Alberta Utilities Commission. The city says occupants of the Blatchford townhouses can expect to pay about $60 a month for heat. 

"You’re paying more to purchase a property in Blatchford than you would elsewhere, but you would expect that in return for that your utility costs should be a little bit lower," said Jim Beckett, the city's independent utility advisor. 

The city has also promised to pay for the $660 million geothermal system over the next 50 years. But, there's still $93 million in costs to be covered even after builder and residents chip in fees. 

"We certainly don't need it all at once," said Henderson of the surplus costs. "That $93 million is probably the investment you need to put in [during] the first 10 to 15 years." 

Henderson says that shortfall could be made up through land sales or green grants from the federal or provincial governments, but says there's also the "worst case scenario" of a property tax increase in the years to come. 

 With files from Jeremy Thompson