Press Releases

December 14, 2020

Advocates Praise Move to End Controversial Residential Home Improvement Financing Program in Riverside

For Immediate Release: December 14, 2020

Media Contact: Rekha Radhakrishnan, 832-628-2312, rradhakrishnan@publiccounsel.org

 

ADVOCATES PRAISE MOVE TO END CONTROVERSIAL RESIDENTIAL HOME IMPROVEMENT FINANCING PROGRAM IN RIVERSIDE

Coalition of Advocates Launch Clean Energy Justice Campaign to

Protect Defrauded Homeowners

 RIVERSIDE, CALIFORNIA – December 14, 2020 – Western Riverside Council of Governments (WRCOG), a coalition of cities and counties in Southern California, voted to cancel its residential Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program last week. The PACE programs in California promised to help Californians finance energy-efficient improvements to their homes, but legal services providers in the state have heard from hundreds of homeowners who were misled about the costs and benefits of the program, and many have lost their homes as a result.

Los Angeles County abandoned its PACE program earlier in the year, citing consumer protection concerns. Legal services providers applaud WRCOG for doing the same: “Although it appears that WRCOG ended their program primarily for financial reasons, this is a victory for consumers nonetheless, and one step further to achieving clean energy justice” said Stacey Tutt, Director of The University of California, Irvine’s Consumer Law Clinic.

PACE programs are enabled by state legislation that permits municipalities to offer financing for qualifying “green energy” improvements, which homeowners repay through an increase in their property taxes. Homeowners who cannot afford the increased taxes risk losing their homes.

In 2021 advocates are launching the Clean Energy Justice campaign to focus legislator and policy maker attention on the problems with PACE and how the state can achieve similar goals in a way that doesn’t put homeowners at risk. “PACE programs simply are not fulfilling their green energy promises for our low-income homeowners” says Stephanie Carroll, an attorney from Public Counsel about the origins of the campaign “and PACE programs continue to operate around the State.”  What’s more, “The Clean Energy Justice campaign want policy makers to understand that PACE financing is often sold through fraud and is costing our clients their homes, adding to the further destruction of historic communities of color,” added Erika Toriz, the Founder of Haven Neighborhood Services, a community-based organization in South Los Angeles. “We want to see environmental justice that empowers our communities, not predatory loan products that charge high interest, strip home equity and leave our neighbors at risk of losing their homes.”

Although WRCOG ended its PACE program, it has a portfolio of approximately 40,000 outstanding PACE loans. Alma Marquez, a homeowner who spoke at the WRCOG meeting last week is saddled with a $70,000 loan for an accessory dwelling unit that was never built. The idea was to bring in rental income and secure her financial future. “Now my mortgage has almost doubled to $3,200 per month – the only reason I am still in my home is due to Covid-related mortgage forbearance. The strain on me and my family has been enormous – I now can’t sleep, suffer from anxiety attacks and my hair is falling out. I need someone to help me.”

Advocates are hopeful that they can work together with WRCOG to get their clients’ cases resolved.