By Cheryl Grieb and Michael Larson

As Florida Realtors, we know that one of the most important moments in a person’s life is holding the keys to their new home for the first time. Homeownership goes hand-in-hand with the American dream. But as severe storms intensify and our state’s housing stock ages, homeowners need new ways to protect their homes and families from ever-stronger storms.

One solution to the problem of stronger storms is PACE financing. Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing is a fast-growing form of financing that eliminates the upfront cost barrier of storm resilience home upgrades. When a homeowner chooses PACE financing to make such an improvement to their home, like installing impact-resistant windows and doors, stronger roofs or energy-efficient appliances, he or she does not need to put any money down up front. Instead, a private PACE company pays all costs at the time of the upgrade, and then the homeowner pays for these upgrades as a new line item on their property tax bill for up to 25 years, at a fixed interest rate.

The use of PACE for hurricane-proofing homes is extremely valuable to homeowners in a hurricane-prone state like Florida. PACE costs nothing to Florida taxpayers, is completely voluntary and does not involve any government subsidies. Yet PACE can keep Florida families safe by financing the strengthening of their homes. These are some of the reasons PACE financing has been praised as a top-20 “idea that can change the world” by Scientific American.

With PACE financing, families are able to harden their homes against dangerous storms. No family should wonder if their windows and roofs will withstand the next storm – and with PACE-financed property upgrades, they don’t have to.

For these reasons, the PACE industry merits expansion in Florida. Because PACE operates in partnership with local governments, each county or municipality government must “opt in” to PACE before their residents are able to use the financing tool. Currently, about half the state has access to a residential PACE program, and approximately 20,000 Florida homeowners have taken advantage of this opportunity. PACE should be welcomed to operate in the remaining half of Florida. No family should be denied financing for safety measures because they live in the wrong municipality. PACE should be available statewide.

Beyond the benefits PACE financing provides individual homeowners, PACE has been an economic boon for many communities, including ours. Across the country, residential PACE has created more than 40,000 jobs due to increased demand for home improvements. And when homeowners make upgrades with PACE financing, their property values increase, according to analysis by Morningstar. This also improves Florida’s housing supply.

PACE financing is one of the decade’s most significant developments in home improvement. It is already benefitting Florida residents, and these benefits only stand to grow in time. As we all prepare once again for hurricane season, those Floridians who have access to PACE should consider whether the financing tool might help them harden their homes against storms. It is proper that all Florida homeowners have the freedom and choice to do the same.

Cheryl Grieb is an Osceola County commissioner and a local Realtor. Michael Larson is a Realtor from Key West.