Ceres residents now have access to the state's Home Energy Renovation Opportunity (HERO) program.
The access was made possible by the Ceres City Council's decision on April 13 to include Ceres in the program. Ceres joins other cities in Stanislaus County that allow HERO including Modesto, Turlock, Hughson, Newman, Riverbank, Oakdale and Waterford.
HERO finances all of the cost to purchase and install products that increase energy efficiency while offering low-fixed interest rates and flexible payment terms up to 20 years.
The repayment of HERO Financing is included in a homeowners' property tax bill.
HERO provides financing for eligible energy efficient, water efficient, and renewable energy products. HERO finances 100% of the cost to purchase and install eligible products. HERO offers low-, fixed-interest rates with amortization periods of 5, 10, 15, or 20 years and, unlike other financing options, there are no credit score requirements and repayments are made through your property taxes, with the interest being tax deductible. Additionally, if the property is sold before the HERO assessment is paid in full, the remaining payments can legally be passed on to a new property owner.
Councilman Mike Kline said "the amazing part about this program is it has nothing to do with your financial ability because it is tied into your property tax and it's a low-interest rate and it's open to anybody who's a homeowner."
Financing is available for dual pane windows, cooler roofing, cool walls, installation of solar panels, advanced energy storage systems, electric vehicle charging stations, small wind turbines, solar water heating, HVAC systems, attic and wall insulation, water heating systems, pool equipment, indoor and outdoor lighting fixtures that save energy, water efficient toilets and greywater systems as well as rainwater catchment systems.
"How can any city not do it?" Kline said.
The program does have its eligibility requirements for residential properties including:
• All mortgage-related debt must not exceed 90 percent of the value of the property.
• Mortgage payments must be current at the time of application, and owners must not have had more than one 30-day mortgage late payment over the past 12 months.
• Property taxes must be current and there must be no more than one late payment in the past three years.
• No outstanding involuntary liens, such as tax liens or mechanic's liens.
• Property owner(s) must not have had any active bankruptcies within the last seven years, and the Property must not be an asset in an active bankruptcy. However, if a bankruptcy was discharged between two and seven years prior, and the property owner(s) have not had any additional late payments more than 60 days past due in the last 24 months, the property owner may be approved.
• Mobile homes must be permanently attached to the property and the owner of the underlying property must be the applicant and be subject to real property taxes
For more information, go to www.heroprogram.com.
The HERO program was created by the Western Riverside Council of Governments in 2011. WRCOG is a multi-city agency that oversees planning and development in areas west of Banning. HERO is one entity in the Property Assessed Clean Energy program, which began in California in 2001 and has since spread to 31 states. WRCOG manages the California HERO program.
These so-called PACE programs can be a blessing to homeowners because so little cash is required up front. But there are reasons why homeowners need to go into the program with eyes wide open:
• The HERO loan is recorded against the property as a tax lien.
• The tax lien is in the first position, meaning that if a homeowner goes into default, HERO gets paid before any other creditors, including the lenders that hold the mortgage.
• That first position is so important that the Federal Housing Finance Agency prohibits Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from purchasing mortgages or notes with PACE liens.