Solar-for-Vouchers Technical Assistance Program

The Solar-for-Vouchers Program provides technical assistance to help multifamily rental property owners install solar panels and reduce their energy costs. Property owners can take advantage of the savings resulting from this technical assistance in exchange for a commitment to rent some of their units at market rates to Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program participants.

The Metropolitan Council Housing and Redevelopment Authority (Metro HRA) administers the largest Housing Choice Voucher program in the state of Minnesota. This program provides federally funded rent subsidies to private property owners on behalf of low-income renters. Historically, it has been difficult for voucher holders to find rental units. A prospective voucher holder who cannot rent a unit within 120 days of receiving a voucher loses the opportunity to participate in the program. In 2019, only 56% of program participants who received a voucher were able to rent within this timeline.

The Council’s Local Planning Assistance unit is uniquely positioned to provide technical assistance that could make it economically beneficial for property owners to lease to Metro HRA’s voucher holders. Council staff have significant expertise in the technical and financial aspects of developing a solar energy infrastructure and the Council will offer this expertise to facilitate rooftop solar panel installations.

Expanding the housing options of the region’s low-income residents and advancing adoption of renewable energy sources are the two desired outcomes of the Solar-for-Vouchers Technical Assistance Program.

The Council facilitates the process of solar panel installation by assembling a committed group of property owners and connecting them with solar developers, who can install solar panels at competitive group prices. The Council selects solar developers for program participation via a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) process that evaluates them based on their qualifications and experience, their general equipment and maintenance plans, and their cost proposals. The Council brings the property owners and solar developers together and is not a party to the contract.

The Solar-for-Vouchers Program offers a simple, streamlined process of solar panel installation, where program participants avoid the lengthy process of finding developers, evaluating the quality of their work, and negotiating competitive prices. Prospective participants simply express their interest in participating in the program by submitting an application to the Council to be considered within the pool of applicants. Based on these submissions, the Council identifies the number of properties to be considered in the RFQ process.

The Solar-for-Vouchers Program partners with Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs) to offer program participants free technical assistance. The technical assistance to program participants will include: an educational workshop which reviews the process of solar panel installation; advice about successful site visits (which will be coordinated by program staff); specific assistance with reviewing solar developer proposals with an eye toward contract best practices; providing financial calculators to property owners; and general assistance that is needed to help program participants identify the contracts that best fit their needs.

Program participants may then choose to sign a contract with solar developers and initiate the process of solar panel installation and new Housing Choice Voucher holder move-ins.

Savings from solar energy and rental units for voucher holders.

Property Owners benefit from:

  • Potential reduced costs for solar installation through group purchasing and contracting

  • Access to high-quality solar installers at the most competitive prices

  • Expert knowledge on solar technologies, contract terms, and financing options

  • A streamlined, transparent, and cohort-based solar installation process

Solar Developers benefit from:
  • A portfolio of pre-screened properties and motivated potential clients

Program participants are expected to rent, at market rate, the following number of units to low-income households through the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program for 5 years:

Number of units in building

Number of units reserved for Section 8 HCV program participants

5 – 20 2
21 – 40 4
41 – 100 8
101 – 150 10
151 + 15

In case property owners already rent to voucher holders in their properties, they are expected to reserve the above-specified number of units in addition to the number of units they already rent.

Program participants are expected to lease to a voucher holder within 12 months after the date of signing a contract with a solar developer.

Unless a property owner has rented all specified units to voucher holders or if the lease is terminated due to eviction or the early move out of tenants, property owner is expected to:

  1. Advertise vacancies in the participating property at the HousingLink website.

  2. Notify Metro HRA of vacancies in the participating property.

  3. Work with Metro HRA when they refer potential tenants to fill vacancies.

  4. Provide short status updates twice a year when contacted by program staff.

Map highlighting the participating communities, which are listed below.Eligible properties must be:

  • Served by Xcel Energy
  • No taller than 5 stories
  • Buildings with 5 or more units
  • Structurally sound enough to support solar panels
  • Located in Metro HRA’s service area (PDF):
Andover
Anoka
Arden Hills
Benton Twp.
Bethel
Blaine
Brooklyn Center
Brooklyn Park
Camden Twp.
Carver
Centerville
Champlin
Chanhassen
Chaska
Circle Pines
Cologne
Columbia Heights
Columbus
Coon Rapids
Corcoran
Crystal
Dahlgren Twp.
Dayton
Deephaven
East Bethel
Eden Prairie
Edina
Excelsior
Falcon Heights
Fort Snelling
Fridley
Gem Lake
Golden Valley
Greenfield
Greenwood
 
Oak Grove
Orono
Osseo
Ramsey
Robbinsdale
Rockford
Rogers
Roseville
San Francisco Twp.
Shoreview
Shorewood
Spring Lake Park
Spring Park
St. Anthony
St. Bonifacius
St. Francis
Tonka Bay
Vadnais Heights
Victoria
Waconia
Waconia Twp.
Watertown
Watertown Twp.
Wayzata
White Bear Lake
White Bear Twp.
Woodland
Young America Twp.
 
Ham Lake
Hamburg
Hancock Twp.
Hanover
Hilltop
Hollywood Twp.
Hopkins
Independence
Laketown Twp.
Lauderdale
Lexington
Lino Lakes
Linwood Twp.
Little Canada
Long Lake
Loretto
Maple Grove
Maple Plain
Maplewood
Mayer
Medicine Lake
Medina
Minnetonka
Minnetonka Beach
Minnetrista
Mound
Mounds View
New Brighton
New Germany
New Hope
North Oaks
North St. Paul
Norwood Young America
Nowthen
 

The program has four phases:

Flowchart detailing the process, which is written below.

Phase 1: Application

In Phase 1, property owners are expected to attend an educational workshop about the program, where they receive prequalification technical assistance for program enrollment.

If they are interested in participating in the program, they need to submit two forms:

Phase 2: Request for Qualifications (RFQ)

In Phase 2, solar developers are expected to attend an educational workshop about the RFQ process. Solar developers interested in participating in the RFQ process need to submit a proposal.

The Metropolitan Council will screen and prequalify solar developers through its Council-run RFQ process. At the end of the RFQ process, the Council will designate the selected solar developers as Master Contractors.

The Council will then connect the Master Contractors with property owners. The Council will not make any purchases from solar developers, will not enter into any contracts with the property owners, and makes no representations about the solar developer’s ability to perform the work.

Phase 3: Contract-specific technical assistance

In Phase 3, property owners will receive technical assistance, which will include the following services:

  • Coordinating Metro HRA and solar developer site visits with property owners.

  • Holding meetings for the cohort of property owners to facilitate shared learning about contracts. The meetings will provide technical assistance on the offer-evaluation process, which will review potential risks, key contract terms, and financial costs and benefits.

  • Providing contract review coaching at the request of the property owners, with an eye towards contract best practices.

  • Educating property owners on solar financing to assist in selecting the best financing options.

  • Providing general assistance to help property owners find the contracts that best fit their needs.

Phase 4: Solar contract

In Phase 4, solar developers will extend their final offers to property owners for decision making.

If the solar developer and the property owner enter into an installation contract, the property owner is expected to start working with Metro HRA to rent the specified number of units to the Metro HRA voucher holders. This will involve collaborating with Metro HRA in order to find vacant units for voucher holders. As part of this process, Metro HRA will also coordinate with property owners to bring potential tenants to fill vacancies.

Property owners not moving forward with any solar installation contracts will be able to exit the process. Solar installers are not guaranteed the execution of a solar installation contract at the end of the program.

If the solar developer and the property owner enter into a contract, the solar developers will complete the installation process.

Upon the completion of the installation, the Solar-for-Vouchers program staff will coordinate with solar developers and property owners for site inspection visits.

Program milestones for property owners

  • Attend an educational workshop: Oct. 29, 2020 or Nov. 19, 2020
  • Submit an application: Oct. 30, 2020 – Jan. 17, 2021
  • Host a property-specific site visit: May 17, 2021 – Sept. 8, 2021
  • Participate in contract negotiations: Sept. 9, 2021 – Nov. 17, 2021
  • Get the solar panels installed: Nov. 18, 2021 – Oct. 31, 2022
  • Get new voucher-holders placed: Nov. 18, 2021 – Nov. 18, 2022

Program milestones for solar developers

  • RFQ issued: Feb. 1, 2021
  • Attend a pre-proposal educational workshop: Feb. 9, 2021
  • Submit questions about the RFQ: Feb. 15, 2021
  • Submit response to RFQ solicitation: March 1, 2021
  • Master Contractor status awarded: May 1, 2021
  • Conduct property-specific site assessments: May 17, 2021 – Sept. 8, 2021
  • Participate in contract negotiations: Sept. 8, 2021 – Nov. 17, 2021
  • Install solar panels: Nov. 18, 2021 – Oct. 31, 2022

Program milestones for program administrators

  • Recruit and inform prospective participants through educational workshops: Oct. 29, 2020 and Nov. 19, 2020
  • Administer the RFQ process: Feb. 1, 2021 – May 1, 2021
  • Coordinate site visits: May 17, 2021 – Sept. 8, 2021
  • Provide technical assistance for reviewing contract proposals: Sept. 8, 2021 – Nov. 17, 2021
  • Assist in HRA voucher placements: Nov. 18, 2021 – Nov. 18, 2022
  • Evaluate the program: Nov. 22, 2022 – Dec. 31, 2022

There are many multi-family properties with solar panels installed on the rooftop or garage in the Twin Cities metro area. Here are a few examples demonstrating the diversity of these buildings.

Lofts on Arts Avenue

Lofts on Arts Avenue
Minneapolis, MN
40kW system


The Liberty

The Liberty Townhomes & Apartments
Golden Valley, MN
10kW, 40kW, 125kW systems


View Pointe Apartments

View Pointe Apartments
Eagan, MN
143kW system


The Reserve at Mendota Village

The Reserve at Mendota Village
Mendota Heights, MN
123kW system


St. Anthony Village Apartments NE

St. Anthony Village Apartments NE
Minneapolis, MN
40kW system


Solar installation questions

Who installs the solar panels?
The Council will not install the solar panels. If a property owner enters into a contract with a solar developer, the developer will install the panels.

What if I get storm damage on my solar panels?
The contract between the solar developer and the property owner can address this. Options include damage covered by manufacturer warranties handled by the solar developer, or the property owner. The Solar-for-Vouchers staff will support property owners in evaluating which option best serves their needs.

What would my maintenance agreement look like?
The Council anticipates that developers will offer standardized maintenance agreements as an option in installation contracts under this program. The maintenance agreement may also be negotiated between the property owner and the solar installer to best meet the needs of both parties.

What is the warranty on the solar energy system?
Warranties are typically determined by parts manufacturers and included in the contract documents between the solar developer and the property owner.

Voucher questions

How does the process of housing voucher placement work?
Metro HRA will market housing unit vacancies to active voucher holders and will refer them directly to the property owners for screening. A property owner can screen a voucher tenant like any other tenant. Once approved for tenancy, the property owner will work with Metro HRA to process necessary paperwork for rental payments to begin. More information about housing voucher placement

How soon do I have to place voucher holders at my property after signing my contract with the solar developer?
Property owners are expected to rent the specified number of units to voucher holders within 12 months after signing the contract.

What if I already rent units to voucher holders in my property? Do those units count toward the specified number of units I am expected to rent in that property?
Property owners are expected to rent the specified number of units in addition to the units they already rent to voucher holders.

What happens if a current voucher holder moves out?
Property owners are expected to continue to rent the specified number of units to voucher holders based on the size of their buildings. Property owners are expected to notify Metro HRA of an upcoming vacancy when a voucher tenant gives notice to move. Property owners are expected to advertise vacant units on the HousingLink website.

What if I want to sell my property?
Metro HRA expects the new property owner to comply with the program expectations. Property owners should consult their solar contract with the solar developers.


 

Contact

SolarForVouchers@metc.state.mn.us
Cameran Bailey, 651-602-1212

Workshops

    Learn more about the program at an online workshop:

    • October 29, 2020, 9:00–10:30 a.m.

    • November 19, 2020, 9:00–10:30 a.m.

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