Solar rooftop panelsBy Elizabeth Zach, RCAC staff writer

During the next decade, California is set to spend $1 billion on low-income housing rooftop solar installation. The Solar on Multifamily Affordable Housing (SOMAH) program, according to legislators who passed the law governing the program in 2015, will help the state meet its climate goals and also help reduce energy bills for low-income residents.

“While it’s generally cost effective to install solar without incentives for market rate housing, it’s not the same for low-income and affordable housing,” Sara Kamins, solar program manager for the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) told Next City. “If the state wants to ensure all Californians have access to solar, this will help achieve that goal.”

The affordable housing must have at least five income-restricted units to qualify for the program. Eighty percent of the tenants must earn 60 percent of area median income or the building must be located in a “disadvantaged” area.

There are an estimated 3,500 buildings eligible for the incentives, according to CPUC solar analyst Tory Francisco, but since building sizes vary, it’s still unclear how many units these buildings include.

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