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Judge: PACE home resilience loans must be included on tax rolls statewide

The spotlight turns on tax collectors and local governments — will they once again defy the judge?

A Leon County Circuit Court judge ruled that the Florida PACE Funding Agency program can be administered statewide, clearing the way for Floridians from the Panhandle to the Keys to have access to affordable financing to protect their homes against hurricanes and rising sea levels.

But with hurricane season looming in less than two months and millions of dollars of PACE projects stuck in limbo, the spotlight turns on tax collectors and local governments — will they once again defy the judge?

Some financial experts are concerned that the continued defiance of the judge by the tax collectors could call into question ratings on the state’s municipal bonds whose repayment depends on the tax collectors fulfilling their duties.

The Leon Circuit Court judge’s ruling comes on the heels of legislation passed overwhelmingly by the Florida House and Senate that would make the PACE program even better than it already is. SB 770, which is awaiting the signature of Gov. Ron DeSantis, includes key new provisions that enhance consumer protections, including reducing the maximum term of financing from 30 to 20 years, adding an ability-to-pay test and requiring that only 20 percent or less of the home’s value can be financed.

The new legislation also has an environmental benefit, allowing local governments to approve homeowners to leverage the PACE program for septic-to-sewer conversions, which will improve Florida’s water quality and protect springs and drinking water sources.

[Editor's note: PACE loans are funded by the State of Florida, with repayments collected as part of local property tax payments.]