Senate PACE bill adds to pressure to restore clean-energy program
Grist has been covering the fate of Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE), a tool that helps homeowners finance green improvements to their properties. PACE programs had been spreading quickly across the country until Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac put a stop to them in recent months. Here’s the latest:
Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), and Mark Begich (D-Alaska) introduced a bill Thursday that would put Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) programs back in action over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s objections. Based on the Senate’s less-than-speedy performance in recent years, it’s not likely to pass anytime soon.
The bill is a companion to the House bill introduced by Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.). Thompson told me last week that he’d prefer to see the PACE dispute resolved through negotiation with Fannie, Freddie, and their regulator, rather than through legislation or a lawsuit, both of which would take longer.
On Tuesday, he and other House members met with the Federal Housing Finance Agency, the mortgage corporations’ regulator, to try once more to hash out a compromise. Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) pitched the idea of a pilot program that would test the performance of PACE tax assessments. FHFA promised a response by Wednesday, but has remained mum, at least in public.
The outpouring of support for PACE from the Obama administration, governors, mayors, the House, and now the Senate suggests the mortgage-finance corporations will have a tough time maintaining their opposition.
Here’s Sen. Merkley’s prepared quote on the appeal of the PACE model:
Innovative financing programs like PACE are simultaneously supporting a growing clean energy sector, creating jobs, and putting more money in the pockets of families and businesses — it’s a job creation trifecta. Innovative energy financing has been a key driver in making Oregon a leader in the clean energy sector and it is crucial that we protect important programs like PACE which help our economy and create jobs.
Seems like Fannie and Freddie would want to support that (here’s more on their objections).