AB 811 program derailed in Placer County

A pilot program in which Fresno and Kern counties are participating faces increased obstacles following challenges from mortgage stalwarts Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

A story in today's Sacramento Business Journal chronicles how the fallout has stalled Placer County's Property Assessed Clean Energy, or PACE, program of $1.5 million in residential energy efficiency upgrades.

The program operates under AB 811 and is designed to allow property owners to install renewable energy, energy efficiency and water efficiency projects and pay for them through their mortgage bills.

"This really hit us out of the blue,” said Janill Richards, a supervising deputy attorney general in Jerry Brown’s office, in the story by the Journal's Michael Shaw. "Last year they indicated they were fully supportive of PACE programs here in California."

Fallout began when Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae issued letters to lenders questioning the PACE program. The debate appears to come down to issue raised in these sentences in Fannie Mae: "PACE loans generally have automatic first lien priority over previously recorded mortgages. The terms of the Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac Uniform Security Instruments prohibit loans that have senior lien status to a mortgage."

The PACE concept also drew opposition in Riverside County where there was a competing program.

Other cities and counties in the San Joaquin Valley had been considering joining a program called CaliforniaFIRST, which charges a one-time set-up fee that is based on population.

The San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Organization is a nonprofit dedicated to improving our region's quality of life by increasing its production and use of clean and alternative energy. The SJVCEO works with cities and counties and public and private organizations to demonstrate the benefits of energy efficiency and renewable energy throughout the eight-county region of the San Joaquin Valley.