Energy Efficiency Funding Comes to Alachua County

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By Laura Labovitz

Alachua County is planning to join in on the national “green living” trend. The county is launching a financing initiative for property owners to make energy efficiency upgrades.

YGrene, a company that supplies 0 percent down loans, is working with Alachua County to provide the loans.

“Florida faces more extreme weather scenarios than almost anywhere in the country, which is why access to smart financing for a wide array of energy-conserving home and business retrofits is more important than ever,” said Ygrene’s CEO, Stacey Lawson, in a recent press release. “Every new community that joins is another step closer to securing a more vibrant, climate-resilient future for the Sunshine State.”

To qualify for the total 100 percent financing, YGrene looks at the equity of the property, not the owner’s credit history. To pay the loan off, the county gets involved by charging the infrastructure and energy efficiency upgrades to the overall property tax rate.

“In order for the financing to be approved, the energy savings must exceed the cost of the improvement over the life of the installation,” said Lawson. “We work with the property owners to ensure they are getting a net positive benefit from making the upgrade.”

The program, referred to as PACE (property assessed clean energy), is known for upgrading the energy efficiency and hurricane resilience abilities of existing properties. The procedure is pricey, which is why YGrene and Alachua County have joined to offer an alternative to residents who cannot afford to pay upfront fees for the services.

In October 2015, Florida’s Supreme Court ruled to allow PACE programming in the state. The case was shuffled up to Florida’s highest court by the Florida Bankers Association due to a concern that property owners will pay back the Ygrene loan before repaying the bank the mortgage note. The Florida Bankers Association’s case against YGrene was not upheld in the court.

The county joins 25 other Florida counties, and 155 communities across the country which have taken on this financing initiative.

“Because the financing is tied to the property and not an individual, it is the lowest risk way to finance property upgrades today. Other options, such as credit cards, can be difficult to obtain and even harder to pay back,” Lawson said. “PACE financing is based on the equity of the property, not an individual’s credit score, giving cash-strapped property owners a viable way to increase the value of their assets.”

YGrene offers to spread the payments over a 20 year period of property tax increases, and sometimes may qualify for a tax deduction. Since the financing is connected to the property’s equity, it is also transferrable in the event of a sale or refinancing.

The county also hopes that the PACE initiative will inject a stream of construction jobs into the area as property upgrades begin to pop up around town.

“To date, Ygrene has created and sustained over 13,500 jobs across the country. When Alachua’s program is fully operational, we expect to be financing between $10 to 15 million in projects per year, which equates to 155-225 jobs annually,” Lawson said.

Counties throughout Florida have cashed into this idea of financing both personal and commercial residences in the name of energy efficiency and natural disaster resilience. The increased property tax rates benefit the county, and, in theory, once the debt is repaid, the promise of increased equity and decreased energy bills may benefit the property owner in the long run as well.

“Alachua had been looking at our program for a long time and saw the opportunities it has afforded other Florida and California communities,” Lawson said. “The county wanted to provide another financing option to its property owners to make energy and climate resilience upgrades.”

As a society of eager energy consumers, this new initiative is projected to supply the latest and greatest options in energy reducing products and upgrades for county property owners. The loan will allow consumers to reach for energy efficiency faster, regardless of their personal economic ability to pay the steep bill upon completion of the project.  

Interested Alachua County property owners can apply for financing on Ygrene’s website. Residential, commercial, and multi-family property owners may qualify for funding.

Once a property is approved for financing, contractors complete the project and are paid by Ygrene. To pay back the bill covered by Ygrene, property owners can expect increased charges on their property bills for a period of up to 20 years.

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Mark: In my conversations with Ygrene’s PR staff, I was sent this graphic. I asked for permission to forward it to you in case you would like to run it as an image alongside the story. They agreed and would like us to cite the graphic with the caption “Photo courtesy of Ygrene.”

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