(Montreal) The Union of Municipalities of Quebec (UMQ) and the Fédération québécoise des municipalities (FQM) fear that Bill 41 on the environmental performance of buildings will encroach on the autonomy of cities and generate additional costs for construction housing and buildings.
Representatives of municipalities were invited to participate at the start of the consultation on Bill 41, Tuesday in Quebec.
From the outset, the UMQ and the FQM welcomed the objectives of this law which aims to decarbonize buildings and enable energy savings.
But cities and municipalities are concerned about the additional costs that could arise in particular from the implementation of an environmental performance rating linked to buildings.
“It is imperative that funding for municipal building decarbonization programs be sufficient so as not to hinder the construction or renovation of infrastructure,” said Martin Damphousse, president of the UMQ and mayor of Varenne.
The bill provides that new buildings meet a certain number of criteria relating to energy efficiency, carbon footprint, reduction of peak demand and the integration of infrastructure to promote sustainable mobility, like charging stations.
Existing buildings that must be renovated will also be subject to certain criteria related to energy efficiency.
The law also provides for a public register of the environmental performance of buildings as well as an “obligation to display and disclose the rating obtained by a building in certain circumstances”.
Municipalities are therefore asking the government to ensure that funding for decarbonization programs for municipal buildings is sufficient to prevent the future law from becoming an additional obstacle to the construction or renovation of municipal infrastructure.
The vice-president of the UMQ, Guillaume Tremblay, recalled that municipalities own large buildings which consume a lot of energy, and which are not always well insulated such as arenas, libraries and swimming pools.
“New obligations will result in significant costs for municipalities, especially due to energy upgrades to existing infrastructure and increased construction costs linked to environmental performance standards, with many sports and leisure facilities nearing the end of their useful life. useful life in all regions of Quebec,” underlined the man who is also mayor of Mascouche.
It is imperative, he added, that funding for municipal building decarbonization programs is sufficient so as not to hinder construction or renovation projects.
Spending will save money
Present during this parliamentary commission, the Minister of the Environment, Benoit Charette, responded to the UMQ that he “hears the various fears in terms of costs” that Bill 41 could generate.
“It’s true for municipalities, it’s true for owners of real estate, there is a cost to this work, we all agree.” However, “if we look at the savings that this work subsequently generates, these are costs that can be amortized in a very predictable manner and we must naturally consider this from the start,” added the minister.
Avoid worsening the housing crisis
Municipalities are also concerned that the new building standards will have consequences on the cost of rent and housing, in the midst of a housing crisis.
Guillaume Tremblay pointed out that certain regions of Quebec have fewer real estate developers, in particular because it is unprofitable to construct new buildings. In these regions, municipalities must even set up subsidy programs to encourage the construction of housing.
“We must prevent the addition of standards for the environmental performance of buildings from having the effect of exacerbating this regional issue in the midst of a housing crisis,” argued the UMQ in the brief it submitted.
These fears are legitimate, replied Minister Charette.
However, he argued, “we must not forget that these obligations will initially be on a voluntary basis in the first years” and that the decarbonization of buildings “will take place gradually without it being too big a shock. »
The last thing the government wants, added Benoit Charette, “is to make access to housing even more difficult.”
The buildings sector is responsible for approximately 10% of total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in Quebec, according to 2020 data.
The government wants to halve GHG emissions linked to heating of buildings in 2030 compared to the 1990 level.