1/ Exclusive:
Homeowners across the U.S. are being sold on a form of financing called property assessed clean energy, or PACE, which leverages the taxing authority of local governments to cover the high upfront cost of a climate-friendly renovations: bloom.bg/3upn9i0
2/ Some homeowners thought they were enrolling in a free government program to make their homes more energy-efficient. Others were promised the energy savings from their renovations would quickly offset the cost.

One answered a robocall about eliminating their electricity bill.
3/ PACE isn't a mortgage, nor is it a conventional loan. Rather, homeowners pay back their balance — plus interest — via a surcharge on their annual property taxes.
4/ Consumer attorneys and legal aid groups in large U.S. counties where homeowners have used PACE say it has emerged as a serious problem for low-income homeowners.
5/ Those who can't afford the steep interest rates on the financing may default on their property taxes, slip into mortgage foreclosure, or be forced to sell their homes to get out of debt.
6/ More than 20 states offer PACE financing for commercial properties, but only Florida, California, and Missouri make it available for residential dwellings. However, residential PACE customers vastly outnumber commercial ones.
7/ Retired postal worker Allen Bowen of Los Angeles used PACE to install solar panels and energy-efficient windows.

A door-to-door contractor told him it was a government-backed program — but $10,331 was added to his annual property-tax payments. The solar panels didn't work.
8/ Alysson Snow, a senior attorney at the Legal Aid Society of San Diego, says she first encountered the program in 2016 through an elderly client whose annual property taxes jumped from about $300 to more than $17,000 due to a series of clean-energy assessments.
9/ PACE is "basically a price-gouging, equity-stripping program that preys particularly on elderly folks who have the most equity in their houses," Snow says.
10/ In Florida, Sandra Diaz was signed up for PACE during a 2018 visit from a contracting company.

Diaz had wanted her air-conditioning ducts cleaned but ended up with a whole new system and a tax assessment that will cost her as much as $35,700.
11/ A decade ago, Minneapolis considered launching a residential PACE program.

Prentiss Cox, law professor at the University of Minnesota who prosecuted subprime lending as a former Minnesota assistant attorney general, evaluated the plan.

"The basic concept here is flawed."
12/ No government agency tracks how frequently the financing puts borrowers in jeopardy of losing their homes.

The program's proponents say that — when implemented as intended — PACE can be a vital tool in the fight against climate change.
13/ Despite support from progressive and environmental groups, consumer advocates saw red flags from the start.

"In terms of how it operates, from a homeowner's perspective, PACE is essentially a mortgage product," says John Rao, an attorney with National Consumer Law Center.
14/ In Baldwin Park, Socorro Tamayo (right) was shocked when her annual property tax payment jumped by more than $4,000. The previous year, she had solar panels installed.

She thought that she had enrolled in a program through her electric utility to reduce her energy bill.
15/ To learn more about the PACE program and the dozens of ongoing lawsuits against PACE providers, read the full investigation by @rejburns: bloom.bg/3upn9i0

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