Energy program sets debt limit for home improvements

SONOMA COUNTY – The Sonoma County Energy Independence Program has set a new ceiling on how much debt homeowners can hold when they seek to participate in the energy-improvement loan program.

Reacting to federal rules and the demands of bond market financing, SCEIP ruled that homeowners cannot owe more than 110 percent of the market or assessed value of their homes, including energy program loans, to qualify for the program.

"We did it reluctantly," said Amy Bolten, spokeswoman for the Sonoma County Water Agency and one of the primary leaders behind the program. "We started the program with $100 million" put up by the county of Sonoma and the Sonoma County Water Agency, she said. "We already have $40 million worth of requests."

Now the program needs to turn to the bond market for financing, she said.

"And the bond markets won't buy under-water properties," she said.

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