Saturday, December 19, 2009

Austin Board of REALTORS resisted the mandatory Energy Conservation Audit Disclosure (Thank you)

I found this article published about the Austin Energy Conservation Audit Disclosure in May 2008 on Austin Real Estate Today. I thought I'd repost it below.

Austin Board of REALTORS® Propose Alternative to Mayor Wynn’s ‘Point of Sale’ Ordinance

Austin Board of REALTORS® sent an email alert today to propose a change to Mayor Wynn’s Climate Protection Plan. So far, it looks like REALTORS® agree with most aspects of the plan. Like most solutions, there’s a few areas of contention. Here’s what the email alert outlined:

What’s this about?

In early 2007, Austin Mayor Will Wynn released the Climate Protection Plan with the goal of making Austin the “greenest” city in the country, [including] the “Proposed Point of Sale Ordinance”….The city’s proposal would require that homeowners upgrade their homes and obtain a “Certificate of Compliance” from the city before they’re able to sell it. We oppose this plan for several reasons:

Affordability – This type of out-of-pocket expense will prevent many homeowners from having the option to sell their home, particularly if they need to sell due to a difficult financial situation. In addition, the cost will inevitably be passed on to homebuyers, making it even more difficult to afford a home in Austin.

Extended sales process – Arranging the additional inspections needed to obtain a Certificate of Compliance (not to mention actually making the upgrades to properties) would draw out the time required to sell homes substantially. Further, Austin doesn’t currently have enough home inspectors in our city to fill the anticipated demand, promising even further delays.

Mandates- Do we want to require a “license” for homeowners to sell? – As it’s proposed now, this ordinance would essentially require that homeowners apply to the city for a “license” to sell their home (i.e. Certificate of Compliance). Do we want to spend our city’s resources on this activity and add this complication to the real estate process? Austinites buy and sell more than 25,000 homes each year…

What’s the alternative?

We support initiatives to promote energy efficiency in Austin, but the mandates under consideration are the wrong approach. Instead, we believe that a voluntary program that rewards Austinites in a meaningful way for making good decisions about energy efficiency is the right way to build long-lasting support.

ABOR proposes the following:

  • Support free energy audits in all Austin homes and include that information in ABOR’s Seller’s Disclosure Notice to allow the market to adapt to the "value" of energy efficiency in homes.

  • Expand the incentives for homeowners who voluntarily make upgrades to their homes by offering annual homestead exemptions and sales tax relief on items related to those upgrades.

  • Allow the 9000+ members of ABOR to act as educators who encourage homeowners to take advantage of the many programs Austin Energy already has in place.

  • Create and promote a “Green REALTOR®” designation.
Where are we now?

Currently, this proposal is under consideration by the Energy Efficiency Retrofit Task Force. Created by the Austin City Council, this task force is determining the specific guidelines of the ordinance (though it has already been determined that the ordinance will require existing homes to meet mandatory standards for energy efficiency before they can be sold). After the Energy Efficiency Retrofit Task Force completes its task, they will make recommendations to the Austin City Council. From there, Austin City Council members will vote on whether the ordinance will go into effect.

The real issue and discussion items

This debate is similar to the Universal Healthcare discussion. How effective and costly are mandates? Should we mandate that all homes be retrofitted or have incentive programs instead? I think it’s a balancing act. We want as many homes upgraded to be green, but at what cost to the taxpayers?

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