Home Efficiency Made Easier

Berkeley housesDo you want to make your house more energy and water efficient but just don’t have the money?  Well, it just got easier!  Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing returns to Berkeley, the birthplace of the program. Low-rate loans are now available for residential and some commercial efficiency improvements such as electric vehicle charging stations, energy efficient upgrades, water efficiency products, and solar.  Most homes are eligible and loans are transferable upon sales in most cases.

A Rocky Start  Although the idea started in Berkeley, it has had some setbacks.  In 2008, Cisco DeVries, then Chief of Staff to Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, recommended that homeowners be allowed to finance energy improvements through a loan on their property taxes.  The cost of the loan would be spread over a period of time with payments made through a special assessment on the property tax bill.

Berkeley moved forward with a PACE pilot program called Berkeley FIRST.  The pilot served as a model for PACE programs across the country.

The program ran into difficulties in 2010 when Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac refused to back mortgages with PACE liens on them.  (PACE liens take priority over mortgage companies in the event of foreclosure).  Berkeley was among the communities that dropped out of PACE.

In 2011 the HERO PACE program was started in Riverside County, which uses the contractor community to market the program to property owners.  And in 2013, California passed Senate Bill 96 that removed the concerns raised by mortgage companies.  That opened the doors for the PACE programs to expand in California.

The New PACE  Funding is now available with no upfront costs and long-term, fixed-cost financing.  Unlike a typical mortgage, loans are secured by the property rather than the owner’s credit standing.  There are two PACE providers in Berkeley and one in Albany.

The California FIRST program is available in Berkeley for both residential (up to 3 units) and commercial or multifamily (5 units or more) properties.   California FIRST provides PACE financing that can be repaid over the course of up to 25 years.  Online go to https://californiafirst.org/ or call 888-839-1857.

The HERO program is now available in Berkeley and Albany for home energy products permanently affixed to the property.  Loans with low fixed-interest rates are financed for up to 20 years.  HERO has been adopted by 296 cities and counties in California and helped to fund over 16,500 residential projects, totaling more than $300 million in financing.  Online at https://www.heroprogram.com/ or call 855-HERO-411

More detailed information, risk acknowledgement, and technical assistance can be found at the City of Berkeley Office of Energy and Sustainable Development website http://www.cityofberkeley.info/PACE/.

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