Low-Interest Loans Boost Sustainability for Working-Class Families

Bay Soundings

By Vicki Parsons

January 31, 2018

SELF was featured in this publication in Bay Soundings as a clean energy non-profit organization that helps people lower their energy bills. To read the full story, click here.
Here is an excerpt,

For low- or moderate- income homeowners, improving the energy efficiency of their homes can be a chicken-and-egg issue.

Their water and power bills are higher than they should be, so they can’t afford to install insulation, high-efficiency windows or water-saving fixtures – creating a vicious circle that can be nearly impossible to escape.

A new effort by the city of St. Petersburg using funds from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill hopes to change that. Rather than judging a resident’s ability to repay a loan solely by his or her credit scores, the Solar and Energy Loan Fund (SELF) judges families differently, said Jessica Lewis, clean energy loan officer. “We look at their discretionary funds and their commitment to repaying us,” she said.

Loans typically range from about $5,000 to $12,000 with interest rates from 5 to 9%. For families with low credit scores, interest through traditional banks can range up to 20%, assuming a bank will even approve the loan, she said.

“We’re a boots-on-the-ground organization focused on helping low-and-moderate income families lower their energy bills – while improving sustainability and the ability of residents to combat the effects of climate change. We can’t work with everyone, because you do need to be able to repay the loan, but we’re much less expensive than bank financing for many people. Renters are not eligible for the program, but landlords may be because there is no limit on the upper end of income.”

Jessica lewis

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