SF Unveils Green Loans for RE

The city of San Francisco kicked off a program on Monday to offer loans to both residential and commercial property owners to do green retrofits of various kinds.

April 13, 2010
By Dees Stribling, Contributing Editor

Courtesy Flickr Creative Commons user http2007

The city of San Francisco kicked off a program on Monday to offer loans to both residential and commercial property owners to do green retrofits of various kinds. Called GreenFinanceSF, it will potentially cover (among other things) the addition of solar panels, double-paned windows, solar water heaters, geothermal heat pumps, and low-flow toilets and shower heads.

The program aims to get rid of the disincentive to do greenfits posed by high upfront costs by allowing property owners to pay back the loan for the upfront cost over time via a special line item on their property tax bill. The program is structured through a special tax district; owners apply to join the district and, if approved, file documents authorizing the levy of a special tax against their property. If the owner sells the property, the balance of the loan becomes the responsibility of the new owner.

“San Francisco’s green financing program will help property owners overcome the large upfront costs of major environmental improvements to their buildings,” San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom asserted in a statement. “These improvements will save property owners money on monthly utility bills, increase property value, and will help the city meet its aggressive greenhouse gas reduction goals.”

The Bailout is So 2008

Back in the panic days of late 2008, the prospect of a $700 billion bailout prompted hand-wringing and cries of moral hazard. As recently as a year ago, the federal government was expected to lose a cool $250 billion of that total on the deal, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

On Monday, The Wall Street Journal reported that the entire cost to taxpayers for the bailout in its various permutations might be about $89 billion, give or take. To give that number some context, Bill Gates and Warren Buffet could combine their fortunes, pay the sum, and still have $5.5 billion left over each as walking around money (assuming they split it even-steven, which would err somewhat in favor of Buffet).

Why the downtick in the bailout cost estimate? The companies that took the emergency federal cash are beginning to pay it back, for one thing; also, the ownership stakes that the government took possession of are, in some cases, worth considerably more than 18 months ago. It was called socialism at the time, but somehow the bailout is more resembling capitalism these days.

Not Officially Out of the Woods Yet

The Business Cycle Dating Committee of the National Bureau of Economic Research (a private organization, despite the name), which reads the economic tea leaves and pronounces yea or nay on whether the economy is in recession, said on Monday that “although most indicators have turned up, the committee decided that the determination of the trough date on the basis of current data would be premature.”

According to the organization, the current recession began in December 2007, before anyone was quite sure a recession was on. Monday’s statement also reiterated that the committee is sure about that start (or peak) date: “The committee did review data relating to the date of the peak… marking the onset of the recent recession. The committee reaffirmed that peak date.”

Wall Street didn’t seem to care one way or the other on Monday about the committee’s indecision. After weeks of flirting with 11,000, the Dow Jones Industrial Average edged upward past the milestone on Monday for the first time since before Lehman Brothers’ collapse in the fall of 2008. The Dow did so by gaining only 8.62 points, or a minuscule 0.08 percent. The S&P 500 was up 0.18 percent and the Nasdaq advanced 0.16 percent.