Okeechobee County will opt out of participation in the PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) loan program ...
OKEECHOBEE – Okeechobee County will opt out of participation in the PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) loan program, following discussion at the March 9 meeting of the Okeechobee County Commission in the Historic Okeechobee County Courthouse.
County Attorney Wade Vose said there has been a lot of “disgruntlement and dissatisfaction” among the counties in Florida who participate in the PACE program.
PACE organizations loan money for home improvements in exchange for a lien on the property for the value of the improvements. This lien is then assessed on the property owner’s property tax bills.
PACE programs have two parts. They are technically a government, made by two or more cities or counties, Vose explained. “I would suggest that is just a foot in the door.” The other part is a management and finance company.
He said one of the programs shut down, leaving customers who had already signed contracts for home improvements without the funds to pay the contractors.
“When someone comes in to finance a house, the bank is going to loan the most they can afford,” said Commission Chair David Hazellief. He said these extra loans may be more than the homeowner is going to able to pay back each year. The bill for that loan repayment goes on the tax bill.
Hazellief said the PACE loans could increase the chance the homeowner will wind up losing their homes.
“I was one of the biggest supporters of this because I wanted to give the citizens the options to use this,” said Commissioner Terry Burroughs. He said after seeing the problems with the program in other counties, he has changed his mind.
He said the Florida Legislature has not set any state requirements for PACE loans, despite the fact complaints are on the rise.
“In its inception, it seemed it’s another avenue for people to fix up their homes,” said Commissioner Brad Goodbread. He said he has also changed his mind and is no longer in favor of having the program in Okeechobee County.
The commissioners unanimously agreed to send a letter to terminate the county’s participation in the PACE program in 90 days.