Great news for owners and tenants of low-income apartment buildings! 

California has approved a new initiative to bring utility cost relief for those who need it the most. A 1 billion dollar, 10-year program!

The Solar on Multifamily Affordable Housing (SOMAH) program is finally heading towards action. The original Assembly Bill 693, which passed in 2015, has been sitting on the desk of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) waiting to start moving. Finally, it is rolling out and expected to bring solar to low-income properties in September of 2018.

Under the new SOMAH program, apartment building owners and tenants can be awarded credits through the Virtual Net Metering (VNEM) Program with a limit of at least 51% of the electricity generated by the solar must be dedicated to tenants’ benefit. Low-income families are hit hardest by our states high utility costs. More than 90% of the working poor income goes towards utility bills. In California a family of 4 making under $24,000 a year are at the poverty level.

For apartment owners the SOMAH program can both cut the cost of the tenant’s energy, as well the cost of the energy used by common areas such as laundry facilities, and outdoor lighting. Owners also get a 30% tax credit for adding solar under the Federal ITC (Investment Tax Credit).

The incentives for SOMAH are set at a base rate of $3.20 per watt for the portion of PV systems serving tenants and $1.10 per watt for the portion serving common areas. This base rate will be discounted for projects that also claim the federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) or the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC).

SOMAH will be funded through California’s Emissions Cap-and-Trade Greenhouse Gas Program and thereby create real benefits for lower income families as the expense of the most polluting industries in our state.

The California Carbon Cap and Trade system is finally beginning to show positive results after 3 years. High pollution creators are required to buy credits at escalating costs thereby creating a financial incentive to lower emissions.

One of the great parts of SOMAH is that multiple tenants in large apartments can share in the benefits of solar. They receive credits on their utility bill corresponding to their portion of the output of the solar system generation. Their bill goes down which is real help to low-income families, the apartment owner gets a 30% tax break for installing solar, and our environment gets more help in fighting climate change.

SOMAH will be publishing a handbook in August 2018 as the program rolls out, and is expected to officially start in September of 2018.

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