Collier commissioners delay vote on new consumer protections for PACEJune 12, 2019
Marceau Berteau talks about the solar panels he had installed and financed through a PACE program in Collier County. He said he was misled about the financing and can’t afford it.
Laura Layden, firstname.lastname@example.org; 239-263-4818
Collier County commissioners have once again put off a decision on a proposed consumer protection ordinance for a controversial financing program that helps property owners pay for energy efficiency and storm-hardening upgrades.
After hours of questions and deliberations, commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to continue the discussion at their next board meeting June 25.
The ordinance would put new rules into place for the financing program known as PACE (Property Assessment Clean Energy).
Two weeks ago, the commissioners voted 3-2 to immediately end the program, but left the door open to revive it under new rules to address reports of unscrupulous contractors deceiving homeowners about how the financing works.
Maltide and Marceau Berteau stand outside their home in Golden Gate on Feb. 12, 2019.The Berteaus have lived in their Habitat for Humanity home for six years and installed solar panels in June 2018 through the PACE program, which Marceau Berteau said told him that the panels would be free and would reduce his cost of living. Instead, the loan for the panels potentially will cost the Berteaus over $40,000. Since he cannot work due to complications with his health, Maltide Berteau is the sole provider for the family. “I accepted it because life is not easy,” he said. “But now I am afraid we will lose our house.” (Photo: Morgan Hornsby/Naples Daily News)
In case you missed it: Collier pulls the plug on PACE financing program, at least for now
The PACE program allows property owners to finance eligible projects and then pay the costs back over time through a voluntary assessment on their tax bills. A property assessment automatically becomes a first lien on any property — putting both the borrowers and mortgage lenders at risk.
For months commissioners have debated adopting new rules for PACE since Commissioner Penny Taylor first proposed a consumer protection ordinance in March. Taylor has been one of the biggest critics of the program, saying contractors have unfairly targeted seniors and minorities, signing them up for loans they didn’t need and couldn’t afford.
Commissioners reviewed the latest ordinance proposed by county staff virtually line by line, asking pointed questions and suggesting many edits along the way. At times, they grappled to come up with revisions that at least a majority of them could agree upon.
Some of the biggest proposed changes were shot down by a majority of the commissioners. That included making solar improvements ineligible for financing under the program — and requiring the county to police the program through a new disclosure agreement.
The latest ordinance was modeled in part after protections adopted by Pasco County Tax…