SAN DIEGO — San Diego homeowners got a much easier and more affordable way Tuesday to install solar power and make other upgrades that improve energy efficiency and shrink utility bills.
The City Council unanimously approved allowing owners of residential properties to pay for such projects without any up-front costs as part of the state’s “property assessed clean energy” program.
The program was previously open only to the owners of commercial properties, including apartment buildings with at least four units, and residential properties with no mortgages.
Instead of paying for the upgrades immediately, homeowners can now secure private loans from lenders participating in the program and then pay the money back over several years as a surcharge on their property tax bills.
City officials said reductions in utility bills will often be larger than the property tax surcharges.
San Diego joins several other local cities that have approved such programs, including Oceanside, Carlsbad, Vista, San Marcos, Lemon Grove and Solana Beach.
An estimated 80 of California’s nearly 550 cities and counties are participating, city officials said. They estimated the programs have created more than $400 million in economic activity across the state.
Adding residential properties to San Diego’s program is expected to create many local jobs and reduce energy use, a greater regional priority since the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station ceased operations last June.
Drawbacks for homeowners include possible hurdles refinancing their mortgages or selling their homes. Some buyers might request homeowners pay off the debt before a purchase can be completed, city officials said.
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