published on June 22, 2016 - 3:09 AM
Written by The Business Journal Staff
Business is booming for one local contractor thanks to the company’s affiliation with a program that provides low-interest loans to home and business owners seeking to make their properties more environmentally friendly — and energy-efficient.

Northwest Exteriors, which has an office in Fresno, estimates the company has seen a 25-percent increase in revenue from its residential business since partnering with the HERO Program, which allows property owners to make energy- and water-efficiency improvements and pay for them over time through their property tax bill.

The HERO Program is made possible by Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) legislation, which allows government and business to partner and provide low-cost financing for energy-efficient improvements.

Rancho Cordova-based Northwest, which specializes in window replacements, siding products and solar, has had to hire several new employees to meet the demand created by the company’s tie up with the HERO Program.

Northwest’s Marketing Director Kelly Richardson said “the endorsement that comes with being a HERO-vetted contractor adds a great amount of credibility and separates us from many others in the marketplace.”

Around the Valley hundreds of other local home improvement and contracting businesses have boosted their bottom lines by tying up with the HERO program.

HERO works in partnership with Fresno County and the cities in Fresno County, as well as more than 400 municipalities across California, including in Kings, Madera and Tulare counties.

Since becoming a HERO partner, Northwest Exteriors has completed 94 HERO-funded home-improvement projects in its Fresno operation over the past year. These projects represent $1.3 million in financing, according to Richardson.

Because the HERO program works in concert with local governments, consumer protections are a top priority, and this includes vetting, training and monitoring participating contractors.

Renovate America developed the HERO Program in 2010 through a partnership with the Western Riverside Council of Governments, a public agency representing 18 communities within Riverside County. Western Riverside County became the first region to offer the HERO Program to its constituents. Today, the HERO Program is now accessible to over 90 percent of Californians.

Homeowners who meet the minimum criteria are eligible for low-cost financing through the program, which finances 100 percent of the cost to purchase and install eligible products ranging from low-flow toilets and water-saving plumbing fixtures to solar panels, wind turbines, attic fans, insulation and even artificial turf.

More than 50 different types of energy-efficient, drought-resistant and renewable energy products actually qualify for inclusion in the HERO Program, which to date, has helped finance more than $1 billion in energy-efficient home improvements nationwide and saved home and business owners millions on their utility bills.

Even mobile and manufactured homes are eligible for the program if they are permanently attached to the real property and pay real property taxes rather than DMV fees.

Repayment of HERO financing is taken care of via the homeowner’s or business owner’s property tax bills. Property tax payments that are made through an impound escrow account are automatically adjusted by the lender once they receive notice from the HERO program.

Similar to a mortgage, the interest paid on the principal balance often comes with certain tax benefits. Should a property be sold before the financing is repaid, in some cases the remaining payments can be passed onto the new property owner.

Most homeowners who are current on their property taxes and mortgage payments and have at least 10 percent equity and no recent bankruptcies are eligible for the program, which has been available in most of the Valley’s larger cities for a number of years.

During the past year, city councils in many rural Valley communities like Mendota, San Joaquin, Porterville, Tulare, Lindsay, Woodlake and Farmersville have voted to make the HERO Program available to their residents as well.

In Tulare County alone, the HERO Program has provided $4.3 million in financing to over 230 projects, representing an estimated $7.2 million in stimulus to the local economies.

Blair McNeill, vice president of Community Development for Renovate America, which continues to administer the program today, said HERO “has proven to create jobs while helping communities reach their emissions and water-use reduction targets.

“HERO financing brings renewable energy and energy- and water-efficiency within reach for a broad range of homeowners,” McNeill said. “We are excited to help people make their home more comfortable, potentially lower utility bills and reduce their impact on the environment.”

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