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Eco-Financing Home Improvement Program To Begin In Miami-Dade, Broward Still Considering

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CORAL GABLES (CBSMiami) -- Coral Gables City Commissioner Vince Lago lights up when he talks about his solar panels.

"Right now what you're seeing is clear energy production," he said proudly as he pointed out the 40 panels on the roof of his Coral Gables home.

He had them installed on his home just over a year ago to go green.

"It feels great! Listen, it's clean energy, it's reliable energy," he told CBS4's Natalia Zea.

He is also excited about the huge change to his FPL bill -- from $300 a month to just $9.39 for the month of April.

The solar panel job cost $30,000. But Lago took advantage of an alternative financing program, one that he pushed to make available to all Coral Gables residents.

Instead of paying contractors out-of-pocket, or taking out an equity line on his home, Lago signed up with Ygrene Energy Fund.

YGrene finances green and hurricane protection improvements on homes and commercial properties without a credit check or a bank.

Instead, you pay for your home upgrades on your property tax bill over the length of time you choose.

"The rates range from six-and-a-half up to about seven-and-a-half and that's fixed for the life of it," explained Joe Spector, with YGrene Energy Fund.

YGrene says the financing is an assessment on your tax bill, so it transfers to the new buyer if you sell your home. The bill stays with the home.

Javier Avila, owner of American Impact Windows and Doors, says his business has been flooded with new customers since he became a Ygrene approved contractor.

"It's changed our business drastically. We've grown in the last year and a half, I want to say 4 times."

As of now, only 8 cities offer YGrene in Broward. Miramar is set to vote on it next week and if the Broward Commission approves it May 24th, all of Broward County will be eligible, unless cities choose to opt out.

23 municipalities in Miami-Dade offer Ygrene. In July, the county is also set to start the program.

"We have received almost 1,000 applications already from unincorporated Miami-Dade and they still haven't even joined the program," said Spector.

Many of the local governments delayed Ygrene because of a lawsuit in the State Supreme Court filed by the Florida Banker's Association -- until the court rejected the suit last fall.

The Banker's Association says the financing program is not supported by the Federal Housing Finance Agency and argue it could impact a home refinance or sale.

"It's either going to cost higher interest rates or more down payments, or just make it harder to sell your home," said Anthony DiMarco, with the Florida Banker's Association.

Lago doesn't believe that's a concern and says the hurricane insurance benefits and green improvements have increased the value of his home. He believes it can do the same for others.

"This is an incredible opportunity for South Florida," he says.

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