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Thompson bill would protect energy retrofit loans

Rep. Mike Thompson joined with two House Republicans Wednesday in introducing legislation to protect the government-financed home and business energy retrofit programs that have run afoul of federal housing regulators.

Sonoma County has been a pioneer among the dozens of local and state governments offering Property Assessed Clean Energy, or PACE programs. Since its inception more than two year ago, the county program has handed out about $48 million in retrofit financing, which property owners repay through their property tax bills.

Federal housing regulators have said such funding arrangements pose a risk to the mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in the event of defaults. Last year they ordered tighter lending standards for both individual PACE participants and entire jurisdictions offering the programs, a move that forced many programs to close.

Sonoma County sued the Federal Housing Finance Agency last July over the new rules. The case is pending before a U.S. District Court judge in Oakland. Meanwhile, the county's program has continued to operate, although at lower level of funding activity.

Thompson, D—St. Helena, carried legislation last year that also sought to protect the PACE programs.

The new bill, co-sponsored by Reps. Nan Hayworth, R-NY, and Dan Lungren, R—Gold River, would block Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from interfering with financing connected with PACE programs. It also proposes stricter equity requirements and borrowing limits for property owners participating in the retrofit programs.

No companion legislation currently exists in the U.S. Senate, a Thompson aide said.


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