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Solar panels such as these could qualify for the Property Assessed Clean Energy program that economic development officials discussed Tuesday at the Corvallis Rental Property Managers Group meeting at the Elks Lodge. 

Corvallis-area property managers and landlords received their first briefing Tuesday on a state program that might make it easier for property owners to install energy-efficient upgrades.

The Property Assessed Clean Energy Program (PACE) has been approved for Oregon commercial, multifamily (more than five units) and industrial property owners. The residential piece, which is in place in other states, has not yet received the green light here.

The program allows a property owner to finance the upfront cost of energy or other eligible improvements on a property and then pay back the costs over time through a voluntary assessment.

“We’re really excited about this,” Kate Porsche, the economic development officer for the city of Corvallis and Benton County, told members of the Corvallis Rental Property Management Group at their monthly luncheon at the Elks Lodge. “It’s just getting going here.”

Possible benefits cited by Porsche during a presentation she shared with Phil Warnock, community and development director with the Oregon Cascades West Council of Governments, included:

• Greenhouse gas reductions that would tie in with the city’s climate action plan.

• Improved economic infrastructure and job creation.

• Increase in the value and performance of buildings.

Types of projects that could use the new financing tool include energy-efficiency upgrades, water conservation projects, renewables, seismic projects and electric vehicles. The work could be done on existing buildings, rehabs or new construction.

Those pushing the mid-valley effort hope to piggyback on work being done by the Portland Development Commission, which Porsche said has just received funding for its first PACE project. The PDC, Porsche said, could serve as the “administrator” for implementation of PACE throughout the state.

Once an energy audit is performed on the property, the administrator would then work with lenders to get the loan in place.

“And it’s not a traditional loan,” Porsche said. “It rides with the property. If you sell the property, the loan just rides with the property. You save money (with the efficiency upgrades) and you have a more valuable building at the end.”

Warnock fielded questions, with he and Porsche noting that there are some pieces of the puzzle for which they do not yet have answers.

The property managers expressed concerns about the challenge of doing major remodeling work on properties in which you want to limit how long they are vacant and whether they could recoup expenses by raising rents for tenants.

Also, only a few of the landlords present own properties large enough to meet the five-unit threshold.

“This is way early. It’s in its infancy in Oregon,” Porsche said. “You guys are among the first ones to hear about it. We’re hoping we can make it work here.”

At its next meeting Aug. 28, the property managers will discuss the "m" word ... mold.

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Contact reporter James Day at jim.day@gazettetimes.com or 541-758-9542. Follow at Twitter.com/jameshday or gazettetimes.com/blogs/jim-day.

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