Cut Energy Costs And Fight Climate Change By Greening Ontario Homes, Say Realtors

Photo by Maximillian Conacher on Unsplash

A new report from the Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA) is proposing to fight climate change by reducing GHG emissions in housing while helping keep more money in the pockets of Ontario’s homeowners.

Released today and written in partnership with StrategyCorp, the Accelerating Ontario’s Green Future: New Approaches to Housing and Climate Change report tackles GHG emissions in the resale housing market by providing more supports to homeowners in reducing their energy use and saving costs on their monthly bills. The report also proposes a plan to help address a major climate threat looming over Ontario homeowners from – flooding.

“Climate change is a major threat to our way of life and the residential housing sector has to do its part to lower emissions and mitigate risks,” said Tim Hudak, OREA CEO. “Through these recommendations, Ontario can help homeowners reduce their carbon footprint, safeguard their homes against climate change, and keep more money in their pockets.”

Three of the major planks in OREA’s policy paper will support homeowners in making building envelope improvements to their properties. Envelope improvements (upgrades to outer barriers supporting energy efficiency, from windows to walls) have been shown to be one of the best ways to reduce the consumption of natural gas – a major driver of GHG emissions from housing.

“On-bill financing is a great way to provide homeowners with upfront help to do a green renovation, which they can then pay off using the savings on their energy bills,” said Hudak. “The planet gets lower GHG emissions from homes, jobs get created in the renovation sector and homeowners get long term savings – it’s a win-win.”

Recent environmental and climate change events across Canada – from heat waves in British Columbia to coastal erosion in Nova Scotia – have highlighted the significant challenges and issues that arise when housing is not prepared for rapidly changing environmental conditions.

Annual catastrophic insurance pay outs in Canada averaged $400 million until 2008 but are now approaching $2 billion each year. With higher insurance pay outs inevitably comes rising premiums – in Ontario, they have grown by 64% over the last decade – making it more costly to own a home in an already expensive market.

Together, the recommendations within create the conditions for Ontario to reduce emissions, mitigate the impacts of climate change on homeowners, and support societal uptake of measures that will encourage the overall “greening” of the housing sector. They include:

  1. Creating a New Green Home Renovation Tax Credit: The Government of Ontario should create a targeted green home renovation tax credit explicitly for green renovations—including those that enable a work-from-home setup. This credit should only apply to homes built before 2010 and include an income cap, to help focus on improving existing middle-class homes.
  2. Introducing On-Bill Financing (OBF) for Building Envelope Improvements: The Ontario government should work with their energy sector stakeholders to offer OBF residential energy efficiency programs for their customers, allowing upfront costs to be paid down over time. This would help reduce emissions, create high-skill construction jobs, improve energy-efficiency, lower household energy bills, and does not require a new spending line in government budgets.
  3. Developing Flood Mapping for Home Flood Protection: Flooding is cited as the costliest climate event in Canada in terms of damage and impact with respect to insurable losses. To allow Ontarians to make better-informed decisions when buying or selling a home, the Government of Ontario should develop a user-friendly system that establishes the flood risk of residential properties across the province to fill in gaps in existing flood mapping.

“Without action to address emissions in Ontario’s residential building space, it will be difficult for Ontario to meet its existing targets and even harder to meet its future targets,” said Stacey Evoy, OREA President. “In order to do so, the Ontario Government must also consider improving the climate resiliency of Ontario homes. Akin to GHG reduction improvements, increasing a home’s climate change adaptation protection will only increase the value of the home.”

The eight policy options outlined in this paper, together, will help bring the province closer to meeting its GHG emissions reductions targets and commitments and contribute to Canada becoming net zero by 2050. Further, they are beneficial for the environment, while also aligning with Ontarians’ desire to take climate action and protect the value of their most important asset: their home.


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