EL PASO, Texas - County commissioners unanimously approved a new voluntary program proponents say will make it easier to improve aging and out-of-date buildings with new and more efficient infrastructure and utilities like lighting, plumbing, fixtures and HVAC systems.
Most importantly, it would come with savings to businesses and property owners by stretching financing out over a long term period so operational cost savings would be more than the costs of the financing, with no money down.
Called the property-assessed clean energy or PACE program, it relies on the county to guarantee the provisions and requirements of the program, but does not require any county funding. The loan is put into place as a lien on the land itself, and would be transferred to any new owner.
That is intended to ensure the terms are kept stable to give lenders confidence they will be paid back over the long term loans of the program. Charlene Heydinger, president of the Texas PACE Authority, says the savings from the improvements are passed along as well.
"El Paso County is taking great leadership in Texas to create an economic development opportunity for local business. And it reaches all corners of the county," Heydinger said, "We're very excited about that. The businesses include industrial, which includes agriculture; commercial, which includes non-profits; and multi-family properties which include at least five units."
Private lenders have expressed interest in supporting the program. Joseph Edgar with Austin-based Petros Pace Finance say they have $250-million set aside for PACE in El Paso County, raised from private investors interested in supporting the program.
"You wind up saying 'everybody wins, so what's the catch?'" Edgar said. "And we get that a lot. The catch is it takes educating. So if you don't understand how this works, then it's an entire new way to look at financing. Traditionally, if you get a loan on your building, you have it until you own it. When you sell that building, somebody else's loan pays you off and you pay that loan off. So that's just the way the mindset is."