Eagle County starts ‘smart loan’ program
EAGLE – Eagle County’s “Smart Loan” program hasn’t officially started yet, and Adam Palmer is already getting questions about it.
“People are calling to ask if they can still get in,” said Palmer, the county’s environmental policy planner. Because applications won’t be accepted until Monday, there’s probably still time.
The Eagle County Commissioners Tuesday gave final approval to the loan program. County voters last fall approved creating the loan program. The loans will help local home owners pay for energy-efficient home improvements. Those improvements can range from insulation to windows to solar energy panels.
Homeowners repay the loans through a special assessment on their property taxes. Unlike a home equity loan, this program stays with a home after it’s sold, so a new owner would continue to pay for the improvements.
Palmer said the county isn’t going to check credit scores. Instead, applicants have to prove they’ve paid their property taxes on time. Palmer said any tax liens or delinquencies could make a homeowner ineligible for a loan.
While the county’s program is easier to get into than a conventional bank loan, Palmer said county officials are confident that county residents will repay their loans.
“We collect 99.9 percent of the property taxes in the county right now,” he said.
That success rate persuaded Eagle County Treasurer Karen Sheaffer to provide $1 million from the county’s investment funds to kick-start the program.
While the county’s providing the initial money for the program, Palmer said future funding will come, at least in part, from partnerships with local banks. Palmer said county officials are now working with Alpine Bank, which has provided funding for a similar program in Pitkin County.
While a $10,000 loan would add about $1,000 per year to a property tax bill, Palmer said energy-bill savings are supposed to cover those costs. That won’t be a requirement, although Palmer said homeowners will be expected to do their own due diligence when it comes to the return on their investments
Given the initial interest – and the popularity of a similar program in Boulder County – Palmer said he expects the first $1 million in loan funds to go quickly.
“But our marching orders are to make sure there’s a supply of money, whether it’s from bonds or partnerships with banks,” Palmer said.