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Chip LaMarca: PACE offers Florida families added flexibility, safety

We need to increase the number of quality options for Florida families to get prepared.

When Florida home and business owners look to finance critical improvement projects, like new roofing or hurricane impact windows, they increasingly rely on PACE, or Property Assessed Clean Energy.

In Broward County and throughout Florida, PACE has thrived in recent years precisely because it offers property owners the right mix of affordability, flexibility and security.

As a former Broward County Commissioner, I spearheaded and fought to bring PACE to my community. The reason was straightforward: Broward County often gets hit by intense storms, making it essential for our residents to have many quality financial options available to make their homes more resilient.

And that’s precisely where PACE comes in.

One of the key reasons why I am supportive of the PACE program is because it gives people the flexibility to make upgrades to their homes, with the ability to repay those costs over time at an affordable fixed-interest rate. With PACE interest rates typically range from 4% to 8%. That’s a steal compared to what most credit cards or personal loans charge, often upward of 20%.

Better yet, eligibility for PACE is based primarily on a property’s equity — not an applicant’s credit score. That makes PACE an attractive option for many families who have built up equity in their homes but are not in a financial position to make a large down payment to get a project started.

What type of projects is PACE used for? Most homeowners in Florida invest in projects to bolster hurricane protection, reduce electricity usage or create renewable electricity.  Residents are able to make worthy investments in their homes, ranging from solar panels and solar water heaters to hurricane impact windows, without having to worry about paying a large amount out of pocket to get things started.

Instead, property owners voluntarily repay any project costs by simply adding a special assessment to their annual property tax bill.

Fast forward several years, and I am now proudly serving the Broward community at the state level.  As a state representative, I fully intend to continue supporting PACE and spreading the word on why it should be expanded throughout the State of Florida.

Take Tina and Nick, two local constituents from my district, to see why. In 2017, after having their first baby and purchasing their first home, they had little disposal income leftover.

Still, Tina and Nick knew they needed to harden their home, and they recognized the obvious value of adding impact windows and doors before hurricane season.

So, they turned to PACE financing through Renew Financial to do just that and were offered a prime fixed-interest rate and extremely competitive terms.

On top of the immediate safety benefits, Tina and Nick now say their home’s added value and efficiency is also much higher as a result of these critical improvements. The fact is, they would know since they both work as local realtors. On a daily basis they see a notable difference between homes with hurricane impact windows and doors and those without – indeed, it’s often one of the first questions they are asked by prospective buyers.

The uptick in their home value was also complemented by higher energy savings. At the end of summer, it came as an added bonus and welcomed surprise to see their electricity bill well-under last year’s benchmark. Nick and Tina figure they’ve saved approximately 20% on their utility bill because of the improved insulation offered by their new windows and doors.

In this regard, I know Tina and Nick are not alone. Their experience clearly shows the importance of PACE and the difference it makes for many moderate-income families, who simply want to better protect themselves by making a smart long-term investment in their homes.

 In fact, over 200,000 homeowners across the nation have made similar energy efficiency and other home improvements through PACE financing, so it is about time the other 49 counties in Florida take a serious look at adopting this advantageous program.

With the prospect of major storms in Florida only continuing to grow, we need to increase the number of quality options for Florida families to get prepared.  The PACE program is an example of an affordable and flexible way for Florida families to make the critical home improvements they need.

That’s why I’ll continue my push to broaden access to PACE across the state and empower more Floridians to protect themselves and their families.

 ___

State Rep. Chip LaMarca represents House District 93, which includes part of Broward County. Before that, he served on the Broward County Commission.

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