FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

February 6, 2020

Solarize the Land Trust Brings Affordable Solar to King County Homeowners

Eleven low- to moderate-income homeowners are now making electricity from the sun, thanks to Solarize the Land Trust, a project piloted by Spark Northwest and Homestead Community Land Trust in King County, Washington.

solarize the land trust

For many families, solar can seem beyond reach—because of upfront costs, home prices, or language barriers.  To overcome these obstacles, Solarize the Land Trust brought together a unique team of solar experts, affordable homeownership providers, multicultural communicators and funders.

Over the summer of 2019, Spark Northwest and Homestead held workshops for Homestead’s homeowners to learn about solar, financing, and the Solarize opportunity. Homeowners could then participate in a group purchase to receive a discount on installing solar and apply for a grant to help pay for it. Ultimately, 84 people attended workshops, 22 applied for grants, and 11 installed solar.

Under Homestead’s Community Land Trust model, an income-qualified buyer pays for and owns the home, while the land is owned collectively through Homestead.  The home appreciates at a formula rate to keep it affordable to future low-income homeowners.

The homeowners led a competitive process to select a local solar installer for the group purchase. The selected installer, Puget Sound Solar, offered a discount to homeowners who participated in the program. Even with the group purchase savings, the upfront costs of installing solar still posed a major barrier for many of Homestead’s homeowners, so four foundations funded grants to help with the cost: All Points North Foundation, the Ren Che Foundation, Tudor Foundation, and Union Bank.  These grants helped ten homeowners, covering 65-100% of the system cost, depending on the homeowner’s site and preferences.

About 10% of Homestead homeowners have limited English proficiency, so partners turned to Environmental Coalition of South Seattle (ECOSS) to help these homeowners navigate the program.

“The Community Land Trust opportunity quickly gained steam because working directly with homeowners was simple and rewarding for our staff,” explained Jose Chi, one of ECOSS’ multicultural outreach managers.

ECOSS called each homeowner to explain the program in their preferred language and invited them to a workshop, where ECOSS offered simultaneous translation.

“It sounded like the United Nations,” said one participant at the workshop, where ECOSS translated the program into Chinese, Vietnamese, and Amharic. Two of these homeowners ultimately applied for and received solar grants, and are now producing solar energy.

One is so excited about solar that “he asked for solar information in Vietnamese and Mandarin and he’s going to take it to work and give it to all of his neighbors,” said James Crawford, Residential Solar Adviser with Puget Sound Solar.

“Together we’ve made history,” said Kathleen Hosfeld, Homestead’s Executive Director at a gathering to celebrate the success of the program. “Going forward, housing must be both affordable and environmentally sustainable.”

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Spark Northwest accelerates the shift to clean energy one community at a time. Through its Solarize Northwest program, Spark Northwest has educated over 4,500 people in Washington and Oregon, resulting in over 1000 solar installations and over $21 million invested clean energy.  Contact: Jill Eikenhorst, jill@sparknorthwest.org, 206-457-5403; https://sparknorthwest.org/

Homestead Community Land Trust makes it possible for low- and moderate-income people of King County to own their own home. It was founded in 1992 to arrest the displacement of low- to moderate-income people from rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods. Homestead builds and rehabs homes; makes and keeps them affordable permanently through the community land trust (CLT) model; and supports homeowners in successful ownership. Homestead has 215 homes in trust, and is one of the largest community land trusts in Washington State. http://www.homesteadclt.org/

Environmental Coalition of South Seattle (ECOSS) educates and empowers businesses and diverse communities to implement environmentally sustainable practices. ECOSS leads industry, small businesses, communities and government to practical and sustainable environmental solutions. Through deep relationships built on trust and a capacity of 15+ languages, they deliver equitable strategies and results in stormwater compliance, pollution prevention, electrical vehicles, solar energy and recycling. Contact: William Chen, wchen@ecoss.org, (206) 767-0432 x1016; https://ecoss.org/

Puget Sound Solar Founded in 2001, by Pam Burton and Jeremy Smithson, Puget Sound Solar, (PSS) is the most experienced solar installation company in Washington.  PSS installed the first permitted grid-tie solar PV system in Seattle. Puget Sound Solar is proud of their history of engaging in educational activities and environmental policy work to benefit future generations. They’re a socially responsible company and engaged in the community. Contact: Stu Frothingham, sfrothingham@pugetsoundsolar.com, (206) 706-1931; https://www.pugetsoundsolar.com/

All Points North Foundation is dedicated to navigating communities upward. Established in 2011, its funding priorities include projects that promote solar energy awareness and implementation and evidence-based programs that measurably improve public middle school education. https://www.allpointsnorthfoundation.org/

About the author

author

Started Puget Sound Solar in 2001 with 30 years of construction contracting experience, and a desire to turn Seattle on to solar energy. Achieving NABCEP certification in 2004, Jeremy believes that our customers often follow a path similar to the one he took, starting out with solar daydreaming, then progressing to education on the subject, and eventually leading to action. In addition to leading the company he also does some teaching and speaking engagements about various aspects of solar energy, and experiments relentlessly with various solar, energy efficiency, and electric vehicle projects. Join my circles on G+

Jeremy Smithson

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