Ontario backs off green audit for homes

TORONTO, ONTARIO - A backlash from consumers and the real estate industry over a plan to require energy audits every time a home is sold has prompted Energy Minister George Smitherman to back down.

The audits – which raised concerns that information could be used to beat down the price on the seller's home – will no longer be mandatory under amendments to the government's Green Energy Act now working its way through the Legislature.

Buyers can request the seller to get an audit as part of the negotiating process but it will be voluntary, Smitherman said, urging buyers to go ahead with audits.

"We think it's important to have that information when you buy a home: How much energy does it use?" he told reporters.

"We've created an opportunity for buyers to say to the seller, `No, we're not after that information.'"

The Progressive Conservatives applauded the change, one of several amendments to the act, saying the audits would have "tremendously harmed" a housing market already struggling in the recession.

"It's a huge climbdown," said energy critic John Yakabuski, MPP for Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke.

"The only people to be sad today are home energy auditors and George Smitherman, who hates to be wrong."

The act, designed to bring more energy conservation efforts and renewable sources of electricity to the province, will also be amended so residents will have an easier time objecting to wind turbine projects near their homes given the health concerns that have been raised.

"We listen carefully," said Smitherman, who earlier suggested the law was written to limit the number of "not-in-my-backyard" objections to turbines. "We've made it easier for people to raise concerns around health and safety," he said.

Critics had complained Smitherman was running roughshod over peoples' legitimate fears about their health and property values.

"For him to dismiss it was typical," said Yakabuski. "He's had to admit there was an issue out there. It's a huge admission."



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