PACE loans expanded for energy efficiency, wind resistance improvements to homes

With hurricane season underway, a low-cost loan program was just expanded allowing property owners to better prepare homes for storms.

Acting on one of the last bills on his desk from the 2024 Legislative Session, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed SB 770 modernizing the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program. PACE loans allow property owners to make improvements to their homes and finance the cost through property tax assessments.

Starting in July, the loans will be available for air sealing, replacing windows and making building modifications increasing use of daylight.

The loans will also be allowed to cover installation of insulation, electric vehicle charging equipment, efficient lighting equipment, energy controls and energy recovery systems. Renewable energy products, including electrical, mechanical or thermal energy produced utilizing hydrogen, solar power, geothermal energy, bioenergy or wind energy, can also now be covered.

Wind resistance improvements will also be eligible for PACE loans, including Improving the strength of roof deck attachments, creating a secondary water barrier to prevent water intrusion and reinforcing roof-to-wall connections. The loans can also now cover installation of wind-resistant shingles or gable-end bracing, storm shutters or opening protections. But the wind improvements will also be available as improvements on existing homes, not for new construction.

The legislation was championed by Sen. Jonathan Martin, a Fort Myers Republican, in the Senate and Rep. Dana Trabulsy, a Fort Pierce Republican, in the House.

It was promoted as an answer to rising home insurance costs. The improvements now allowed to be covered are ones that often reduce homeowners insurance premiums by making properties more resistant to hurricane force winds.

The legislation was popular in the Legislature. It passed in the House on an 87-24 vote. It drew opposition from a. number of lawmakers who feel PACE loans allow predatory lending practices.

“Why would someone use PACE? Their insurance company says they have to have a new roof to maintain coverage. The contractor puts this financing method where you will have to pay over 20 years on your tax bill at an interest rate of 10%,” said Rep. Hillary Cassel, a Dania Beach Democrat.

Democrats chiefly voted against the measure in the House but were joined by some Republicans in areas recently impacted by storms, including Rep. Mike Giallombardo, a Cape Coral Republican.

In the Senate, the bill passed 34-2, with the only dissenting votes cast by Republican Sens. Erin Grall and Blaise Ingoglia.

Trabulsy said the PACE insurance program does have flaws, but that the bill improves it while addressing a critical problem. By expanding who can use the program, it will allow many individuals facing hardship and who have bad critic a way to protect the most valuable asset they own.

“We’re in an insurance crisis right now, if you haven’t noticed,” she said.

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