Grandview Heights is participating in a new program designed to help residents obtain financing for projects to increase their homes' energy efficiency.

City Council members April 6 approved legislation to authorize Grandview to enter into an agreement with the Columbus Regional Energy Special Improvement District and the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority.

The Columbus ESID was set to go into operation April 1, but officials learned April 16 that the start date had been delayed until May.

The Columbus district includes Bexley, Dublin, Grove City, Hilliard, Perry Township, Whitehall and Worthingon, said council president Emily Keeler.

Keeler co-sponsored the ordinance with councilwoman Melanie Houston.

By joining the ESID, the communities have the ability to establish a Residential Property Assessed Clean Energy, or PACE, program for residents, she said.

A PACE program gives homeowners the opportunity to pay for energy improvements at their homes without upfront costs by applying for a loan at a zero- or low-interest rate, Keeler said.

Matt Jordan, a member of Sustainable Grandview, said he began talking about the benefits of a residential PACE program to Keeler and other council members shortly after he moved to Grandview in 2019.

Sustainable Grandview was established in 2009 and its members work to engage and educate residents on environmental and sustainability issues, he said.

As a graduate student at the University of California at Berkeley, Jordan was part of a team of UC-Berkeley students who participated in that city's effort during 2007-08 to create one of the first residential PACE programs in the country.

"PACE financing is a tried and true way to get over a lot of the barriers to traditional financing for clean-energy household projects," he said.

The upfront cost of, for example, installing rooftop solar panels at a house could run $10,000 to $25,000, which many people can't afford, Jordan said.

The residential PACE financing model will give residents the ability to cover the cost of a loan they receive through a special assessment on their property taxes, he said.

"Most of the time, the money you'll be saving in your energy costs will more than make up the additional taxes you'll be paying," Jordan said.

Ohio enacted legislation in July 2009 that expanded the state's existing law on special improvement districts to authorize communities to create ESIDs.

According to the ordinance passed by council, ESIDs are voluntary organizations of municipal corporations, townships and property owners that undertake special energy-improvement projects that benefit properties and authorize the financing of those projects through voluntary special assessments.

An ESID is "the mechanism" that allows a residential PACE program to be established in a community, Keeler said.

The Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority serves as the agency that reviews and approves residents' applications in most communities in the state where a ESID has been established, she said.

The legislation council approved April 6 authorizes the port authority to act on behalf of the city to receive and approve or disapprove applications and plans submitted by residents, Keeler said.

"It's an arrangement that results in really very little additional burden and no real cost for a community," she said.

When he moved to Ohio about a year ago, Jordan said, "I was so excited to find out that Ohio had adopted legislation (in 2010) authorizing residential PACE programs to be established in the state. Now I'm really happy that Grandview has acted to create this opportunity for people in our community."

Residents now will be able to apply to the port authority for residential PACE financing for projects at their homes.

If the port authority approves the financing arrangement, the city will assign a tax assessment to the property.

After the homeowner completes the approved energy improvements, they repay the cost of the project plus interest over time through a tax assessment on their property-tax bill.

Residents can apply for loans to help fund a variety of energy-efficiency projects, Keeler said.

"It's not just to install solar panels or wind energy at your home," she said. "It can be for something as simple as installing new windows or a new HVAC system to improve the energy efficiency of your home.

"This is a program that will benefit our residents, our community and the environment," Keeler said.

She said the city is working to put information about how to apply for PACE financing on the city's website.

Jordan said Sustainable Grandview will offer a virtual educational event about the program once it is up and running.