The REALTORS® of Calaveras County in northern California have nothing against energy conservation or home improvements — far from it — but they were glad to be able to spearhead the repeal of authorization for a Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program in their county, back in January. They did so with the help of a REALTOR® Party Issues Mobilization Grant.

The PACE program in Calaveras County, like similar programs in other jurisdictions, provides homeowners with a means to finance conservation improvements from solar panels to electric vehicle plug-in stations, and pay for them through a tax assessment on the property. This lien would be senior to, and therefore have priority over, any other liens, including mortgages. Therefore, explains Kim Schaefer, who serves as a contract Government Affairs Director for the association of under one-hundred REALTORS®, if you can’t pay for that home improvement, you may just lose your home.

“PACE programs are not concerned about the borrower’s credit scores or employment history, making financing easier to obtain and less time consuming,” explains Schaefer, “but these loans are also unfairly expensive, and are often sold by high-pressure door-to-door sales people. And, although PACE loans are in a senior position, they carry interest rates higher than the first mortgage or a home equity loan.” The FHA announced earlier this year that it will no longer insure loans with PACE lines, she adds, noting that by approving the placement of PACE loans in a senior position to FHA first mortgages, HUD has placed homebuyers and tax payers at risk.

The county had authorized the program less than a year ago, and while there hadn’t been much participation yet, members of the Calaveras County Association of REALTORS® (CCAR) were becoming concerned because of problems that might be encountered during real estate transactions, says Schaefer. CCAR was also aware of negative issues that neighboring municipalities were having with such programs, and, in fact, elected officials in the county had been receiving complaints about the high-pressure tactics of some PACE loan sales forces.

Learning that the county Board of Supervisors had put the controversial issue on its agenda in mid-January, CCAR quickly applied for and received an Issues Mobilization Grant to launch a campaign opposing the program. The campaign mobilized grassroots efforts by CCAR members, targeting members of the Board of Supervisors with letters and patch-through calls. CCAR’s President met personally with several Board members to voice the association’s objections to PACE loans, and Schaefer delivered a substantial package of information to Supervisors and their staff, detailing the risks to homeowners.  The vote to repeal authorization was unanimous.

The members of CCAR are very happy with the outcome, reports Schaefer, who adds, “There are many alternative choices to support energy conservation and finance improvements that are more responsible and present less risk to homeowners and neighborhoods.”

To learn more about how the REALTORS® of Calaveras County, California are protecting their clients, their communities, and their businesses, contact contract Government Affairs Director Kim Schaefer at 661-203-8500.