WQCS | By WQCS Published January 13, 2023, at 3:00 AM EST
Fort Pierce, Fla., Friday January 13th, 2023 – SELF, a non-profit solar and energy loan fund, is celebrating a significant milestone this new year by surpassing $30 million in financing for green home improvements. 74% of these projects are for Low- and Moderate-Income (LMI) homeowners.
SELF’s mission is to rebuild and empower underserved communities by providing access to affordable and innovative financing for sustainable home improvements, including energy efficiency; solar; wind-hazard mitigation; water quality and water conservation projects; and more. SELF has financed over 3,000 sustainable and climate-resilient property improvements and created over $30 million of green economic development activity.
To date, SELF has deployed over three thousand Green Home loans for high-efficiency air conditioners, new roofs and repairs, assorted solar technologies, and other sustainable home improvement projects and the organization has emerged as a national leader in energy equity and environmental justice. SELF was even showcased last year on HBO and in Congress during deliberation of the historic Climate Bill, which included the creation of the nation’s first National Green Bank.
SELF is a nonprofit green bank and certified Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI). Its focuses is on underserved and underbanked communities and provides retirees on fixed incomes, working-class families, veterans, BIPOC, women, disabled homeowners, and individuals with poor credit with access to low-cost micro-loans to help them fix and improve their existing homes.
SELF was the brainchild of Executive Director and former County Commissioner Doug Coward, who worked with the St. Lucie County Commission and other community leaders to secure a $3 million seed grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to create America’s first local Green Bank. The Solar and Energy Loan Fund of St. Lucie County, Inc. (SELF) was established in July 2010 and spun off as an independent, non-profit organization. Over the last 12 years, SELF has grown from one county in Florida to 4-states and has established partnerships with local governments such as: Orange, Hillsborough, Martin, and Miami-Dade Counties; the Cities of Orlando and St. Petersburg; and the Atlanta Housing Authority. Coward said, “SELF is an implementation tool to retrofit and build new resilient, affordable housing while fostering green jobs, energy equity, resilience, and clean energy for all.” He said, “LMI homeowners are the most susceptible population to climate change, heat waves, and severe weather, and they have participated and benefited the least from the fast-emerging clean energy economy.” As a mission-driven CDFI loan fund, SELF knocks down traditional financial barriers by advancing financial inclusion and filling key financial gaps. The organization has over two dozen investors, including global crowdfunding through KIVA.org, and 900+ contractors throughout the SE United States. SELF has now established a successful 12-year track record and leveraged the original DOE grant by a 13:1 margin, and helped more than 9,000 people.
Founding SELF Board Member, Tom Cooper, a well-known green architect with the Florida Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), said, “I knew at my first meeting with SELF, over a decade ago, that this organization could have the potential to greatly improve the quality of life for many families and help reduce global environmental impacts, and it’s all proven to be true.”
SELF client Pamela Turner, a Black disabled veteran and single mother of 4 young children, used SELF to finance a new metal roof after having difficulties getting a bank loan. As an approved Field Partner with KIVA.org, SELF helped Pamela secure a $7,000 globally-crowdfunded loan at 5% interest (fixed). Turner said, “I got exactly what I wanted, a roof that wouldn’t rip off like a tuna-can lid.” She added, “SELF took a chance on me, and that means a lot.”
SELF’s co-leader and longstanding Chief Financial and Strategic Officer, Duanne Andrade, created the organization’s proprietary inclusive underwriting process based on each borrower’s ability to repay rather than credit scores, which facilitated the launch of SELF’s flagship Green Home Loan program and helped deploy capital for low-credit, LMI homeowners with less than 2% default rates. Andrade also testified as an expert witness before the Senate and the Climate Crisis Congressional Committee last year when she noted, “Green banks have the power to unlock economic, environmental, and social benefits, especially in underserved communities.” She added, “Financial systems are overly reliant on credit scores, and traditional underwriting methods leave too many people behind. They do not capture the true creditworthiness of low-to-moderate income communities.”
Over the last few years, Andrade also spearheaded the development of several new green loan products to serve minority and small landlords and developers of affordable housing, as well as new septic-to-sewer loans, which have been successfully deployed in Martin County, Florida. Andrade remains a strong proponent of financial technologies. She has been instrumental in developing SELF’s replicable Plug-and-Play product so other green banks, community lenders, and organizations across the country can potentially use SELF’s proprietary underwriting systems to advance climate equity by leveraging funds from the Inflation Reduction Act. Last month, JPMorgan Chase awarded SELF a $3 million grant for catalytic capital to empower minority and novice affordable housing developers. Andrade said, “SELF is evolving into a one-stop shop for green financing, and, with the passage of the new Climate Bill, coupled with this major grant from JPMorgan Chase, we are very well positioned to fix and create more sustainable and resilient workforce housing.”
Coward said, “The $30 million milestone is an inflection point which clearly shows the high demand for green banks and specifically SELF’s Green CDFI program.” He added, “thank you to the Board of Directors, staff, investors, and partners for your tireless efforts and support.”
See more at WQSC News.