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Last year the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) staff proposed a radical program to force homeowners to decommission or remove their wood-burning fireplace at the point of sale. Members of the Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS® (SILVAR) and other REALTORS® from the nine Bay Area counties spoke out against this proposal. The REALTORS® attended meetings, sent letters, and lobbied elected officials on the BAAQMD Board. The proposal was eventually dropped. Instead, the BAAQMD adopted advisory requirements that are now incorporated into the PRDS residential real estate forms. BAAQMD has also developed a rebate program as an incentive to remove wood-burning fireplaces.

Homeowners looking to switch their wood-burning fireplaces to gas or electric can receive a substantial rebate from the BAAQMD. Rebates can range from $750 to $12,000 depending on the project. There is a total of $3 million dollars in rebates available.

The rebates are available on a first-come, first-served basis. The money is expected to cover rebates for about 1,500 homeowners with 40 percent set aside for low-income homeowners, those who live in areas most heavily impacted by winter smoke, and those who do not have access to natural gas pipelines to heat their homes. The larger grants, those at $12,000, will only be for low-income individuals.

Homeowners can apply for rebates here, or call (415) 749-5195.

The Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS® (SILVAR), a professional trade organization representing over 4,500 REALTORS® and Affiliate members engaged in the real estate business on the Peninsula and in the South Bay, has come out in opposition to a Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) proposal that would mandate the replacement of all uncertified wood-burning devices with gas-fueled, electric or Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) certified heating devices that meet or exceed NSPS Subpart AAA, upon the sale or transfer of residential or commercial property.

In a letter addressed to BAAQMD, SILVAR President Chris Isaacson stated, “We cannot over-emphasize the impact this rule would have on the Silicon Valley housing market. What little it does to reduce wintertime air pollution does not warrant the substantial difficulty it would cause for people who are trying to sell their homes.”

According to SILVAR, implementation of this rule would be complicated, costly, ineffective, overreaching and intrusive to residents. Installation of gas and electrical inserts or EPA certified heating devices would require construction or placement of gas or electric lines into a fireplace, triggering structural, slab foundation and other issues that would be costly. The cost of the units alone range from several hundred to thousands of dollars.

Isaacson said the government should implement regulations that fix problems while negatively impacting the fewest number of residents. The fireplace amendment does the exact opposite and does not correct the problem of air pollution. This rule would force people to remove fireplaces with literally no evidence that the people buying the home would violate “Spare the Air” restrictions, or ever burn wood.

SILVAR contends the rule is an ineffective, senseless solution to solving the problem of air pollution, since it would only affect about 40 percent of homes in 40 years. “This Rule punishes everyone for the bad acts of a few. If implemented, this Rule will hamstring the real estate market, cost home sellers potentially thousands of dollars, and by 2050 will only impact less than half of the fireplaces in the region. This Rule is a broad brush that does not even attempt to target the actual bad actors,” said Isaacson.

SILVAR strongly recommends taking a different, more sensible approach to improving air quality. The Association recommends increasing Spare the Air days and stepping up its enforcement, and providing incentives to homeowners who install the suggested gas-fueled, electric or EPA-certified heating devices.

“Figure out the areas where people are burning excessively and target those areas with either mandatory or voluntary burn bans. If changing out the fireplace is still a goal, then incentivize homeowners to remove or retrofit. This harsh and excessive regulation is not the right way,” said Isaacson.

View SILVAR President Chris Isaacson’s letter to BAAQMD here.

October 2020
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