Calling All Counties and Cities: Who Wants a Cut of PACE's $500 Million for Energy Improvements?
Around the State
In response to bipartisan legislation approved overwhelmingly in 2010, Florida PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) Funding Agency has made some $500 million in financing available to businesses and homeowners for shoring up buildings against storms and making other energy-related improvements.
But to take advantage, those businesses and homeowners have to live in cities and counties that choose to participate.
This week Nassau County completed its interlocal agreement. It was just the second Florida county to subscribe to the innovative program. Flagler was the first. And now -- a month later -- Flagler contractors are hiring crews, hoping to jump-start a sputtering construction industry with contracts to install solar panels, wind-harden structures and generally upgrade inefficient energy conduits in neighborhoods and business precincts.
"This is one of the beauties of Florida PACE Funding Agency," said Jonathan F. Schaefer, program manager for SAIC, third party administrator for the agency. "It answers the great problem of underemployment in the state. Contractors tell me as much as 50 percent of their work can't be done because their customers can't afford it and can't find financing for it. This is going to help solve the problem."
Florida PACE is a special purpose local agency -- a government entity. Its funding comes from the Royal Bank of Canada and from Samas Capital, LLC.
Schaefer told Sunshine State News that Florida PACE was a full year in the making. He said it was developed by Flagler County and the city of Kissimmee. "They painstakingly put this financing in place, one grueling day at a time," he said. "You can't imagine the screening effort, indentures, interviews, legal documentation, contracts and so forth it took. Counties are not likely to take this on from scratch, by themselves."
In 2010 the Florida Legislature authorized PACE programs, which allow property owners to pay for their energy or wind resistance improvements over time, through a voluntary assessment added to their property taxes — "much as you might pay your phone bill through your credit card," said Schaefer.
Home or business owners with reasonably good credit can get 100 percent financing on a shore-up or an energy improvement project for up to 20 percent of the value of their home. On a $150,000 house, that would make $30,000 available. And they can stretch the payments out for as long as 25 years.
One of the unique characteristics of a Florida Pace loan is that it is attached to the property, not the person who owns it. With the loan comes a lien on the property. Repayments come with an interest rate of 7 percent or less, significantly below the going capital rate of 12 to 20 percent.
The government has no risk," said Schaefer. " "It only takes a simple resolution and a short interlocal agreement, that's all."
Nassau County Commissioner Barry Holloway said he is proud to have been the force to present the resolution that enabled the program in Nassau. "We voted unanimously to participate with Florida PACE Funding Agency. It was a statement that told our community and the state -- we support economic development," he said.
Schaefer points out that Florida PACE Funding Agency is unique, in that the subscribing counties have no costs, no risks, no liabilities and all of the agency's efforts are transparent because they fall under the Florida sunshine laws. "You can see," he says, "there are some very commanding benefits of going with this government program, rather than private competitors."
Reach Nancy Smith at email@example.com or at (850) 727-0859.