Dear Mayor Coss, Santa Fe City Council, and President Obama,
Thank you for this opportunity to be heard on how to promote job growth and our local economy during these challenging times. As business people in Santa Fe we believe the best way to stimulate job growth is through the building industry. It is (or was) the third largest industry in Santa Fe behind tourism and state government before this recession. Now our work has all but vanished and our unemployment is enormous.
As we are sure you know, the Federal Government is making energy efficient home retrofits a priority in their job creation programs. This recent pdf highlights the ways in which they are planning to motivate homeowners and help fund the programs:
The concern we have is that by the time this is finally enacted and funded more construction jobs will have been lost in Santa Fe and more business will have disappeared. We cannot afford to wait much longer before some urgent action is taken. We also have concerns that the tax credit incentives involved in this program may not be enough to encourage many homeowners from taking full advantage of the program and the amounts that will be funded per homeowner (currently $12,000 of which $6,000 would be the tax credit. These may not be enough to successfully retrofit our older Santa Fe homes with their unique building styles.
On a National level, we encourage the Federal Government to seriously consider Ed Mazria and 2030 challenge’s plan to encourage retrofits through a federally funded mortgage write-down and a low interest loan program, which would enable many people to take advantage of serious and comprehensive energy efficiency measures while reducing personal debt in these difficult times.
We would like to suggest an immediate major stimulus to our local construction industry, which has suffered enormously over the last year (down 78%). There are several models that individual municipalities across the United States are already successfully using to both stimulate the local construction industry and also encourage homeowners to make their homes more energy efficient. We would like to encourage you to look at these.
A very successful model which could be implemented fairly rapidly is one similar to that currently underway in Sonoma and Boulder Counties, which fund energy efficiency upgrades through Special Property Tax Assessments:
Our state has already enacted legislation last year (SB647) to enable counties and municipalities to set up Renewable Energy Finance Districts to encourage homeowners to install solar, geothermal and wind energy on their properties. The special assessment on property taxes which pays for this encourages homeowners to participate in the program as the debt that is incurred is not personal but remains with the property should it be sold. The addition of broad energy efficient measures to this program would incentivize homeowners to undertake major energy efficiency retrofits to their homes without having to add to their personal debt to do so. As the mechanisms are already being put in place for renewable energy measures, there would not be many further administrative costs involved in the implementation of such a program.
Sonoma County has a very successful program in place that does just this and so far this year has created 800 construction jobs (an 8.4% increase) while neighboring counties continued to lose construction jobs. Beginning Dec. 15, bills can be pre-filed for the New Mexico state legislative session that begins in January. We suggest that a bill be introduced, sponsored by the City, to expand the terms of the Renewable Energy Finance Districts to include major energy efficient retrofits of existing homes that produce trackable energy savings. We encourage the city and county to immediately investigate how this would be implemented so the program could be ready to go as soon as a bill were passed.
Long Island has a very similar program in place but with a limit of $12,000 per house funded as a “benefit assessment” through their solid waste fund.
There is also the city’s affordable housing trust fund or a bond issue which could help to kick start any one of these programs. Clearly these types of programs would make housing more affordable to operate and the city more affordable to live in. The gross receipts and income taxes to the city and state from the stimulated construction industry would more than pay for any outlay of funds to these programs. The demand should also drive green jobs and green job growth as more installers will be needed.
The existing programs mentioned enable and encourage homeowners to make significant changes to their homes. They have added GREEN construction jobs and jobs in the many peripheral businesses that rely on the construction industry. They are already well-studied and have solid track records that Santa Fe could use to rapidly implement something similar before more jobs are lost. In addition these programs would help us cut energy usage and reduce green house gas emissions. These programs will work towards the climate issues that all of us face and that the administration is working on in Washington. This is a win-win for everyone in our community and on our planet. We hope you will see the logic in these ideas and will seriously consider instituting some of these policies and programs. When you do we would be pleased to offer our knowledge and expertise in support.
Wise Improvements LLC
505 216 7529
Advanced Home Analysts,