Floridians are no strangers to the damage and destruction of hurricane season, with many still rebuilding after the onslaught of last year’s storms. For communities to better protect themselves from the next major weather event, homeowners must invest in storm resiliency efforts that can save thousands of dollars down the line — and avoid millions of taxpayer dollars that would otherwise be spent on cleanup.
But this will only be possible if Miami lawmakers ensure access to financing that makes these costly renovations affordable for all homeowners.
With the 2019 Atlantic hurricane season upon us, experts are sounding the alarm about the potential devastation heading toward Florida. In fact, the Tropical Meteorology Project recently increased its storm prediction for this season, warning that Florida could be hit by six hurricanes — up from its previous estimate in April of five. As a result, it is critical that local lawmakers work quickly to defend their communities.
Miami-Dade County, in particular, is at increased risk of being slammed by hurricanes and has experienced 42 devastating flooding events in the past two decades — one of the highest rates in the state.
Miami residents can take a number of steps to prepare for Mother Nature and bounce back stronger after the next storm hits — all while saving money in the long run. For example, the National Institute of Building Sciences found that every $1 invested in storm-mitigation funding can save the country $6 in post-disaster costs. These are costs that would be borne by individual homeowners as well as all taxpayers via reconstruction efforts paid for by the state and federal governments.
But, too often, resiliency improvements come with high price tags that push them out of reach for many families looking to fortify their homes against severe storms. The U.S. Department of Energy has identified up-front installation prices as one of the primary roadblocks to clean-energy growth, as they can routinely run tens of thousands of dollars.
However, Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) upgrades provide an opportunity for property owners across the state to help bridge this gap. PACE programs are financed through a system that allows homeowners to pay for storm mitigation and energy-efficiency projects over time by securing them through their tax bills, thus avoiding the high up-front costs that typically are required for these projects.
As a result, PACE upgrades such as high-impact storm windows or wind-resistant roofing help property owners protect what matters most — their home and their family.
By offering resilient upgrades to property owners in areas at risk from severe storms, PACE is playing a critical role in mitigating the financial costs of devastating hurricanes. According to a recent report from the University of Southern California Schwarzenegger Institute, from just 12,000 hurricane preparedness improvements in Florida financed by PACE it is estimated that after 20 years homeowners will have saved $500 million in avoided future hurricane disaster losses, as well as more than $700 million in future insurance premiums.
Having these protections in place before the next storm strikes can be critical for strengthening Florida’s communities, where many are still waiting on insurance payments to cover the damage from Hurricane Michael or Hurricane Irma. PACE programs can help prevent Miami neighborhoods from suffering the same fate again.
Safeguarding Florida’s communities from severe storms while putting more money in the pockets of consumers is a policy win-win. Without PACE financing, thousands of homeowners could be at risk of suffering irrevocable damage this hurricane season. Miami lawmakers should look to PACE financing as a critical tool that can help protect their communities — before it is too late.
Mike Lemyre is the senior vice president of government affairs for Ygrene Energy Fund.