Leon County first to offer innovative home renovation financing
By Robyn Murrell
Leon County homeowners will soon be able to participate in a program that could save them money on their energy bill. At the same time the program is expected to help boost the local economy by providing jobs.
Leon County is expected to put the Property Assessed Clean Energy program in place as early as next winter, said Maggie Theriot the director of Leon County’s Office of Resource Stewardship.
The program is financed through The Home Energy Renovation Opportunity, an initiative that Renovate America has had in place for almost five years in California.
The program is designed to help homeowners make quality upgrades to their property rather than settling for cheap improvements.
“A program like this will lower utility bills, put people to work, raise property values, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” said Vincent S. Long, Leon County Administrator in a prepared statement. “We have been working hard to make this program a reality.
“This will give Leon County homeowners an innovative new way to finance energy efficient upgrades while protecting our natural resources for generations to come.”
Local contractors who already provide energy-saving services would be able to participate in the same program. However, each contractor will have to go through training to earn certification as approved vendors in the program. Contractors, who will likely, have to hire additional workers, are expected to begin training just before the program is launched.
The trickle down affect on the economy is expected to be similar to what has been seen in California.
“This is a real win-win for the local economy.” said Greg Frost, spokesman for Renovate America, which heads up the effort in California. “It’s creating contracting jobs. We believe based on our estimates that we’ve created over 14,000 jobs as a result of the HERO program over the last 5 and a half years.”
Homeowners who agree to participate in the program will receive 100 percent financing. However, they will repay it through their property taxes. Homeowners will have to meet specific criteria in order to qualify. The requirements include not filing for bankruptcy in the last seven years and not making late payment on property taxes or mortgages in the last year.
There is more. Property owners must have at least 10 percent of equity on their home and they can use the HERO Program to finance improvements worth up to 20 percent of the assets value of their homes, Frost said.
“Every year 1 in 6 homeowners will have to replace something in their home that affects energy consumption,” he said. “The vast majority will opt for a less efficient product because it has the less upfront price. The problem is the equipment that’s less efficient will end up costing the home owner more, than a more efficient product.”
The list of upgrades includes traditional upgrades and some that aren’t so common such as renewable and alternative energy products; energy-efficiency products; and wind-hardening upgrades.
Within these categories, product types may also include solar PV panels and solar hot water heaters, building envelope improvements, such as attic insulation, wall insulation, insulated siding, cool roofs, and efficient windows, doors and skylights. Also, efficient HVAC improvements, including central air, boiler, furnace, duct sealing, and duct replacement and hurricane-resistant windows and doors.