SELF helps homeowners with affordable financing for much-needed home improvements
Orlando, FL – May 19, 2020 – The non-profit SELF organization is opening a satellite office in Orlando thanks to support from the City of Orlando, and the Orange County Board of County Commissioners. This morning, Orange County BOCC approved funding to support the SELF program in Central Florida. The $50,000 BOCC grant complements another $50,000 FY2020 grant the City of Orlando secured through the Bloomberg Philanthropies American Cities Climate Challenge. The grants will help the nonprofit green lender support the City and Orange County’s Sustainability and Resilience Initiatives.
“We are excited to bring this great program back for our residents – to help working-class homeowners get access to affordable financing for crucial home repairs that save money and make our city more resilient,” said Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer. “In addition, enabling SELF financing is another strategy to help reboot our local economy and focus on expanding green jobs in Orlando.” SELF previously operated in Orlando in 2014, with a one-year grant as part of the Recovery Act. SELF completed $500,000 in lending projects the first year, and the program has done $1.2 million in projects in Orange County to date, benefiting 141 households.
As a mission-driven lender, SELF offers affordable financing for home improvement projects, such as high-efficiency air conditioners, roof repairs, solar PV panels, hurricane shutters, impact windows, and more. These projects improve safety, health conditions, and quality of life for residents during the hot summer months. They also safeguard homeowners during extreme weather events and reduce electric bills and home insurance rates.
“Orange County is proud to work with the City of Orlando to offer another creative financing tool,” said Orange County Mayor Jerry L. Demings. “This will help residents live more safely, comfortably, and cost-effectively in their homes during this uncertain time.”
Orlando resident, Tonya Erwin, is disabled and depends on a walker to get around. She benefited from the SELF program. “I had been without my air conditioner for a long time, and with my mobility issues, I was uncomfortable in my own home,” said Erwin. “I figured the worst that SELF could give me was a ‘no,’ so I signed up, and SELF actually approved me! The first few months after getting my A/C installed I woke up every morning thankful that I was finally able to sleep comfortably in my home again.”
“Our goal is to help seniors, working-class homeowners, single-mothers, veterans, and more, secure low-cost financing for critical home repairs and improvements,” said Doug Coward, SELF Founder, and Executive Director. He added, “SELF’s inclusive lending standards are less stringent than traditional financing. We build our loans around the applicant’s ability to pay, rather than credit scores or equity.” As a certified Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), SELF focuses on low- and moderate-income homeowners. SELF raises loan capital from faith-based organizations, Bank CRA-investments, and global crowdfunding. The unsecured personal loans have interest rates as low as 5% fixed and the typical amount ranges from $5,000-$15,000.
SELF hired Lauri Gomez-Borg as the new Orlando/Orange County Program Manager. Gomez has 20 years of banking experience, including work with CDFIs and First Green Bank in Orlando. “I am excited to help SELF expand back into the Orlando market to help people improve living conditions, lower their bills, and increase home equity. We work one-on-one with homeowners to secure financing for people who would have otherwise been forced to rely on predatory lenders.”
In 2019, the City of Orlando was selected as one of the 25 wining cities in the Bloomberg Philanthropies American Cities Climate Challenge. working towards achieving the Paris climate reduction goals. The Climate Challenge is helping set and surpass ambitious climate goals by ramping up action in the two highest-emitting sectors in cities: transportation and buildings and provided a $50,000 grant in support of SELF’s Orlando expansion.
According to the city’s greenhouse gas (GHG) inventory, buildings represent 75% of emissions. SELF’s lending program can help the city reduce residential building consumption. SELF clients are reducing electricity bills by an average of 25% with high-efficiency air conditioners. Many homeowners are shifting to rooftop solar PV systems, which produce clean energy, long-term savings, and boost green jobs.
Local residential contractors are needed to join SELF’s contractor network to perform this work. Scott Hudson, General Manager with Rinaldi’s Air Conditioning, an approved SELF contractor said, “SELF has helped us grow our AC business and assist more local clients.”
About the Solar Energy Loan Fund (SELF)
The Solar and Energy Loan Fund (SELF) is a 501.C (3) community lending organization that is also certified by the U.S. Treasury Department as a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI). SELF focuses on achieving social, environmental and economic benefits for low- and moderate-income homeowners and communities. SELF provides energy expertise and low-cost loans that help homeowners achieve energy efficiency, clean energy (solar PV), storm protection (i.e. roofs and impact windows), disability adaptations, water quality improvements, and more. SELF has also created special programs for veterans and military families, women heads of households, and people with disabilities. SELF headquarters are located in St. Lucie County, where the program began in 2010, and they have satellite offices in partnership with Hillsborough County and the City of St. Petersburg. To date, SELF has helped over 1,400 homeowners finance more than $12 million of sustainable home improvement projects, with 73% of these projects for LMI homeowners, an average loan size of $8,500, and 1.2% default rate.