We report the development of an in-house fluid-structure interaction solver and its application to vortex-induced vibration (VIV) of an elastically mounted cylinder in the presence of thermal buoyancy. The flow solver utilizes a sharp interface immersed boundary method, and in the present work, we extend it to account for the thermal buoyancy using Boussinesq approximation and couple it with a spring-mass system of the VIV. The one-way coupling utilizes an explicit time integration scheme and is computationally efficient. We present benchmark code verifications of the solver for natural convection, mixed convection, and VIV. In addition, we verify a coupled VIV-thermal buoyancy problem at a Reynolds number, Re = 150. We numerically demonstrate the onset of the VIV in the presence of the thermal buoyancy for an insulated cylinder at low Re. The buoyancy is induced by two parallel plates, kept in the direction of flow and symmetrically placed around the cylinder. The plates are maintained at the hot and cold temperature to the same degree relative to the ambient. In the absence of the thermal buoyancy (i.e., the plates are at ambient temperature), the VIV does not occur for Re <= 20 due to stable shear layers. By contrast, the thermal buoyancy induces flow instability and the vortex shedding helps us to achieve the VIV at Re <= 20, lower than the critical value of Re (approximate to 21.7), reported in the literature, for a self-sustained VIV in the absence of the thermal buoyancy. The present simulations show that the lowest Re to achieve VIV in the presence of the thermal buoyancy is around Re approximate to 3, at Richardson number, Ri = 1. We examine the effect of the reduced velocity (U-R), mass ratio (m), Prandtl number (Pr), Richardson number (Ri) on the displacement of the cylinder, lift coefficient, oscillation frequency, the phase difference between displacement and lift force, and wake structures. We obtain a significantly larger vibration amplitude of the cylinder over a wide range of U-R as compared to that in the absence of the thermal buoyancy. Published by AIP Publishing.