PACE Stalls On Federal Concerns

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger today blasted the Federal Housing Finance Agency for failing to support a housing stimulus program that would enable homeowners to make energy-efficiency upgrades - from new windows to solar panels - through a line item on their property tax bill.

The innovate program, called Property Assessed Clean Energy Financing, or PACE, could lead to substantial energy savings, create jobs and benefit the environment. Instead, the governor said, "The FHFA's bureaucratic breakdown threatens one of California's most promising new engines of job creation in this struggling economy."

He was responding to a Housing Finance Agency determination that the PACE program presents "significant safety and soundness concerns" because its loans assume a priority lien over existing mortgages.

"First liens established by PACE loans are unlike routine tax assessments and pose unusual and difficult risk management challenges for lenders, servicers and mortgage securities investors," the agency said, adding that the liens disrupt a "fragile housing finance market."

Thus, it directed Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and Federal Home Loan Banks to tighten debt-to-income and loan-to-value ratios in PACE jurisdictions, and urges state and local governments to reconsider the programs.

The Housing Finance Agency said it recognizes the energy-efficiency benefits of PACE-like programs, and work with officials to develop other retrofit-lending plans.

Schwarzenegger contends that PACE is not a loan, but is simply a tax assessment, which have been successfully managed by governments for decades. "FHFA's action threatens thousands of new sustainable jobs in California, especially in the hard-hit construction industry," he said, claiming that $50 million in stimulus money would be leveraged into $400 million worth of benefits.

These new developments are the latest in the PACE saga, which also led to a lawsuit from a government agency in Riverside County that had a similar plan, as reported by greentech media All this makes it harder for homeowners in Fresno and Kern counties, where a PACE pilot program was under way, to participate.

A fix could be months away. Don't be surprised if the PACE programs now shift to a commercial

Here's more from the Los Angeles Times.

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.