Funding for Seismic Retrofits
Owners of commercial and residential properties can get funding to help pay for seismic retrofits through various programs.
Property owners interested in retrofitting their buildings can get funding support through various programs. Owner-occupied single-family residences and small multifamily buildings (1-4 units) can apply for funding through the Earthquake Brace and Bolt program. Commercial, mixed-use, and multi-unit buildings can apply for grant funding under the Retrofit Grants Program.
Building owners can also apply for a refund on their transfer tax by making seismic upgrades within a year of purchasing their building. Owners of commercial and limited residential buildings can apply for Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing to help fund seismic upgrades.
EARTHQUAKE SOFT-STORY (ESS) retrofit PROGRAM for eligible homeowners
The Earthquake Soft-Story (ESS) Retrofit Program is available to eligible homeowners with a “soft story” living space built over a garage. The program will reimburse eligible owners up to 75% of the total cost of seismic retrofits, capped at $13,000.
To qualify, your house must be an owner-occupied, single-family building built prior to 2000, with one floor of living space over a garage, and be located in one of the following Berkeley ZIP codes: 94702, 94703, 94704, 94705, 94707, 94708, 94709, 94710.
To register, go to EarthquakeSoftStory.com between April 25, 2023 and May 31, 2023. Create an online account and answer the questions as prompted. Once registration closes, homeowners will be selected by random drawing from the submitted registration forms. Each selected application must be reviewed and approved by California Residential Mitigation Program and FEMA.
If you are selected to receive an ESS grant, you will need to obtain a building permit from the City of Berkeley. The permit must be received and dated after acceptance into ESS, and the building permit must state the retrofit is in accordance with FEMA P-1100.
If the retrofit is an engineered solution, the signed and stamped letter from the Design Professional must state the retrofit is in accordance with FEMA P-1100. You are required to submit plan sets to the Permit Service Center in electronic format for review and permitting.
More information about this program, including a full listing of eligible zip codes and program rules, is on EarthquakeSoftStory.com.
Owner-occupied homes can apply to the Earthquake Brace and Bolt program
The Earthquake Brace + Bolt (EBB) program is available to owner-occupied residential buildings containing 1-4 dwelling units. You can get a grant for up to $3,000 toward a seismic retrofit for qualifying older houses.
To apply, you will register on the EBB website to confirm that you qualify for the grant. You will then be entered into a random lottery to be selected to receive funding.
If you are selected to receive an EBB grant, you will need to obtain a permit from the City of Berkeley. When you apply for your building permit, indicate that you are doing “seismic retrofit work in accordance with Chapter A3 for the Earthquake Brace + Bolt program” in the scope of work. Plan sets must be submitted to the Permit Service Center in electronic format for review and permitting.
Learn more about how to apply for the Earthquake Brace and Bolt grant.
Multi-family and non-residential buildings can apply for retrofit grants
The Retrofit Grants Program reimburses property owners of eligible building types a portion of their design and/or construction costs. Retrofit grants from the City of Berkeley are available to multi-family homes of 3+ units, non-residential buildings, hotels/motels, and mixed use buildings. Single-family homes and duplexes are not eligible. You can be reimbursed up to 75% of your design costs, capped at $5,000 or $10,000 depending on building type, and up to 40% of your construction costs, capped at $150,000.
To apply, read the retrofit grant program rules and confirm that you meet the eligibility criteria. You will then submit an application form as well as at least three photos of the building for FEMA's historic preservation review process.
Learn more about the Retrofit Grants Program.
Residential buildings can apply for transfer tax reductions
New owners of residential buildings, including single-family homes, or mixed-use buildings with at least two residential units can receive a refund of their real estate transfer tax for voluntary seismic upgrades. You can receive a refund of up to 1/3 of the amount you paid for the transfer tax. You have up to one year after the sale is recorded with Alameda County to complete the seismic work and file for the refund.
Transfer tax reductions can be combined with any of the other programs (Earthquake Brace and Bolt, Retrofit Grants Program, or PACE financing). To apply, read the transfer tax reduction program rules to understand the eligibility and requirements. When you apply for your building permit, indicate that you are doing “seismic safety work for transfer tax reduction” in the scope of work section. After work is complete, you will submit an application to request your refund.
Learn more about the transfer tax reduction program.
Property owners can apply for PACE financing loans
Property owners with at least some equity in their property and who have not been delinquent on their property tax or mortgage payments can receive long-term, fixed cost financing for seismic upgrades through some Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) providers. Learn more about PACE financing for financing green building improvements.
PACE financing can be combined with Retrofit Grants or transfer tax reductions.
Consult each PACE provider’s website for more information about eligibility and how to apply: