Home Energy Rating Program and green mortgage products assist energy-conscious home buyers

On June 8 the Ontario government released the Ontario Climate Action Plan, the province’s plan to combat global warming and restrict greenhouse gas emissions. Among the initiatives is the implementation of the Home Energy Rating and Disclosure program, paid for by the government and available to homeowners. These energy audits will be required before a new or existing single-family home can be listed for sale, and the resulting report, will be included in the real estate listing so that prospective buyers can see the cost of running the home that they wish to purchase.
Patrick DeRochie, coordinator at the Clean Economy Alliance, says that the energy audits will be well-received by home owners.
“I think that it’s going to be quite popular, actually. Just like when you buy an appliance or a vehicle and you want to know the fuel efficiency, or the efficiency of an appliance, this is a consumer protection thing, where you want to know the overall cost of operating and running a home,” DeRochie said.
There are several mortgage products on the market that reward homeowners for their efforts in making their home more environmentally friendly and/or buying new energy-efficient builds. BMO’s Eco Smart Mortgage®, RBC’s Energy Saver™ mortgage, TD’s Green Mortgage, and Desjardins’ Green Homes Program are just a few of the lenders that offer mortgage rebates, and lower interest rates. Mortgage default insurers are also participating, with Genworth Canada offering a 10% refund of their mortgage insurance premium, a refund of any extended amortization insurance premium surcharge, and enhanced qualifying, which means that debt servicing ratios can be calculated using estimated reduced heating costs. CMHC’s Green Home program offers up to a 25% rebate to borrowers who either buy, build or renovate for energy efficiency using CMHC-insured financing. Since CMHC Green Home was introduced in 2004, CMHC has provided nearly 8,000 refunds worth over $10 million.
While many new homes across the country are built to very high standards when it comes to energy efficiency, cutting the greenhouse gas emissions of older homes hasn’t been a priority. The universal home energy rating report not only gives buyers information on how the home behaves, but also on ways to improve the home’s energy score. This is of particular importance in housing markets where the majority of listings are resale properties.
“We’re able to place a value on this for the first time, so in terms of first buyers, they will never have as much information as they will – and opportunities to deal that information in a positive way – as they will with the Climate Change Action Plan,” said Jay Nordenstrom, executive director of NAIMA Canada and board member of the Canadian Energy Efficiency Alliance. “I think it empowers Ontarians in a profound way.”
The Ontario Climate Action Plan also outlines the creation of a green bank, which will help homeowners access and finance energy-efficient technologies to reduce greenhouse gas from energy intensive heat and cooling sources while significantly increasing the use of available technologies like solar, air-source heat pumps, geothermal systems, vehicle-to-grid energy systems, and energy storage systems.
“In Ontario, there’s been no better opportunity coming into the marketplace now if you are environmentally conscious, but also very much conscious of reining in your utility bills, and having a more comfortable home to live in,” Nordenstrom said.
The Ontario Climate Action Plan is supported by a coalition of more than 90 agencies, including the Ontario Homebuilders’ Association, NAIMA Canada, the Canadian Energy Efficiency Alliance, and Green Communities Canada. The home energy audits are planned to start in 2019.

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