A much-anticipated program for residents seeking to make energy improvements to their homes has been put on hold before it could launch, due to concerns raised by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), the Montgomery Gazette reported last week.

The Home Energy Loan Program (HELP) would lend up to $25,000 to homeowners who had received an energy audit and wanted to make renewable energy and energy efficiency upgrades to their homes. Loan payments would be made over 15 years through a voluntary line item on the home’s property tax.

In this way, HELP would make it more attractive for homeowners to consider investing in energy improvements, which can be expensive.

The HELP loan would place a “first lien” on the property, so that if an owner defaults on their payments, the delinquent payments of the HELP loan would be paid off before the mortgage.

In policy-speak, HELP is a Property-Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program, one of many being proposed across the nation. A handful of states have successful PACE initiatives.

According to the Montgomery Gazette, the FHFA, which regulates Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Federal Home Loan Banks, said July 6 that PACE programs would violate the agency’s principles in governing loans, and homeowners that obtain the loans could be in default of their mortgage agreement, face accelerated payments, and be prohibited from refinancing.

Eric Coffman, a senior energy planner with the county Department of Environmental Protection, said the county could not move forward with HELP with such risks hanging over the heads of homeowners.

Efforts are underway at the federal level to address the issue. The Gazette noted that the PACE Protection Act has been introduced in Congress.

Are you waiting for HELP to come before making energy improvements to your home? Discuss the issue here!

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