Canada’s push to require energy efficiency audits for houses before they’re listed for sale is drawing flak from the real estate sector, even if it’s a basic building block for the amped-up energy efficiency effort the country needs to pursue.
The push for “time-of-sale labelling” is part of Ottawa’s plan to hit net-zero emissions for all buildings in Canada by 2050, the Globe and Mail reports.
“It’s just an obvious thing to do, given that we have to retrofit basically all of our buildings by 2050, if not before,” Efficiency Canada Policy Director Brendan Haley told the Globe, adding that momentum toward mandatory labelling had “really stalled for a while” before starting to grow again.
But critics say the requirement will constrain an already tight housing market. “Mandating labelling at the time of sale is, quite frankly, a crazy thing to do in the middle of a historic housing-affordability crisis,” said Matthew Thornton, vice-president of public affairs and communications for the Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA).
While the new rule would create an extra step for anyone trying to sell a home, the experience so far suggests the end result would make it worth their while.
“If such initiatives in other countries are any indication, homeowners would have to post their property’s energy efficiency rating on their listing. International research shows that higher energy performance scores are correlated with increased property values,” the Globe writes.
The move to label houses makes both climate and consumer sense, said Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson, given that the buildings sector makes up 13% of national emissions. And labelling “will help buyers in terms of understanding the energy costs they’re going to pay,” a degree of energy literacy that will become increasingly useful for those looking to sell their homes.
Greener homes may well go for a higher price, said Daniel Daly, a researcher at the University of Wollongong’s Sustainable Buildings Research Centre, who reviewed international studies on mandatory energy efficiency labelling programs. Going green could increase a property’s price anywhere between 5 and 10%, he said.
The Canadian Real Estate Association is expressing concerns about the red tape involved in labelling, as well as a shortage of certified environmental auditors to do the work. “Canada is facing a historic supply shortage, and the government will need to manage the twin goals of vastly increasing housing supply while working toward meeting climate change commitments,” CREA spokesperson Pierre Leduc said in an email.
The mandatory labelling proposal is receiving mixed responses from the provinces and territories, with British Columbia already onboard with its own provincial mandate.
Ontario will be a harder sell, notes the Globe, with the Doug Ford government making no move to revive its predecessor’s Home Energy Rating and Disclosure initiative.
The Ontario Home Builders’ Association (OHBA) is welcoming the labelling, however. The EnerGuide audits “would be especially useful after a sale, since the buyer would receive a menu of potential upgrades that would reduce energy use and costs,” OHBA President Bob Schickedanz told the Globe.