Around 4,500 Riverside County property owners sought to take advantage of a program offering low-cost financing for a range of home energy efficiency improvements in its first year of existence, it was announced this week.
Last December, the Western Riverside Council of Governments implemented the “Home Energy Renovation Opportunity” — HERO — program, under which homeowners can fund the installation of solar power equipment, skylights, new insulation and other products and modifications by rolling the costs into their future property tax bills.
“HERO is quickly proving that, when you make it easy for homeowners, it is possible to inspire widespread adoption of energy efficiency upgrades,” said Nick Fergis, chief operating officer of Renovate America, a San Diego-based municipal financing concern that partnered with the WRCOG to make HERO available.
“People want to do the right thing and lower their energy use, and they also face the realities of their day-to-day budgets,” he said.
“HERO is quickly growing in popularity because it brings both of these factors together, making it easy for homeowners to simultaneously save energy, save money, and improve their comfort.”
According to WRCOG, which represents 17 cities within the county, 4,500 homeowners had applied for HERO loans as of October, and roughly 3,000 had been approved to date.
The authorized projects are valued at $80 million.
Any homeowner with at least 10 percent equity in his or her property is eligible to apply. HERO loans can pay for basic weatherization of a residence, setting up wind turbines or photovoltaic cells for power, more efficient heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, even door replacements, according to the program website: www.wrcog.herofinancing.com
Approved applicants can amortize loan repayments over five to 20 years.
The costs are added to annual property tax assessments and can be deducted from state and federal income taxes. If a home is sold, the outstanding loan balance transfers to the new owner.
Applicants’ credit scores are not factored into a loan decision.
However, individuals whose properties are in foreclosure or bankruptcy will not be approved, according to the website.
More than 450 contractors are participating in the HERO program.
They’re listed on the website.
According to WRCOG, the HERO program is expected to generate up to 4,000 jobs and conserve about 15 million kilowatt-hours locally in the coming years.
State legislation passed in 2008 laid the groundwork for the program and others like it elsewhere in California.