SF Reviving Program That Offers Financing Breaks For Homeowners Who Want To Go Greener

San Francisco homeowners could soon be able to participate again in a city program that will provide affordable financing options for energy efficiency projects in their residences.

Mayor Ed Lee and Supervisor Mark Farrell today announced the city’s plans to restart GreenFinanceSF, which would allow homeowners to obtain private financing for efficiency projects like solar panels and pay them along with county property taxes over a period of up to 20 years.

Lee said the program will “help to remove a major financial obstacle” to making efficient upgrades to a home.

Josephine Zhao, a homeowner and member of the advocacy group Small Property Owners of San Francisco, said “the cost of doing an upgrade to our property is one that has to be weighed very carefully” and financing rates for loans on improvement projects “right now are not too favorable.”

The mayor said tying financing for the projects to property taxes would allow for lower interest rates and said the costs for improvements would be passed on to a new homeowner if a residence is sold, adding further incentives for people to move forward with the projects.

A similar program in the city was suspended in 2010 when the Federal Housing Finance Agency raised objections about the impacts such financing, known as Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE), would have on private mortgages.

But earlier this year, Gov. Jerry Brown announced a reserve fund for PACE programs in the state that will address the FHFA’s concerns by covering the costs of a project if a house was to foreclose, according to the mayor’s office.

Farrell noted that similar programs have been successful in Sonoma and Riverside counties despite the federal concerns.

He said the program, which needs to be approved by the Board of Supervisors, would “continue San Francisco’s tradition of being at the forefront of combating global climate change.”

Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

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