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San Francisco plans to revive residential PACE

David R. Baker Updated 5:37 pm, Monday, November 25, 2013

All but killed by the federal government three years ago, an innovative way of financing home solar installations may be poised for a comeback.

And San Francisco officials want to be part of that resurgence.

PACE financing programs let homeowners and businesses borrow money to install solar panels, then pay back the loans bit by bit as a line item on their property taxes. Building upgrades that save energy qualify as well.

Short for Property Assessed Clean Energy, PACE began as an experiment in Berkeley in 2008. The idea quickly spread across the country.

But in 2010, the Federal Housing Finance Agency brought that expansion to a sudden halt. The agency, which oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, decreed that the loans posed an unacceptable risk to mortgage lenders should homeowners default.

Reviving the program

The agency’s move forced San Francisco to mothball its own PACE program, launched just a few months before. But now city officials have decided to revive the program, called GreenFinanceSF. Supervisor Mark Farrell will introduce a resolution Tuesday to begin the process.

San Francisco will join a growing number of cities and counties moving ahead with PACE. They’re convinced that federal regulators may soon drop their objections, or at least soften their stance. Read more.