The Florida-based Solar and Energy Loan Fund (SELF) has provided innovative and affordable financing for sustainable home and business improvements in 90 jurisdictions in Florida. Now, SELF, through the South Florida Housing Link Collaborative, will be able to reach an even wider base of customers as part of a $5 million affordable housing initiative financed by the J.P. Morgan Chase PRO Neighborhoods Competition.
The “South Florida Housing Link Collaborative” was one of seven selected this year out of 75 applications across 49 U.S. cities in JPMorgan Chase’s annual Pro Neighborhoods competition. The collaborative partners will support the Coastal Housing Link Plan developed by the South Florida Community Land Trust.
This ambitious plan is aimed at creating and preserving sustainable and affordable multi-family housing near commuter rail stations in South Florida. SELF’s role as the lead recipient of the grant funds will include launching a new multifamily debt product for solar, energy efficiency, and storm protection, as well as expanding their flagship single-family lending programs to help more low- and moderate-income (LMI) homeowners.
By strategically offering these loans in key areas and project types, the initiative’s $5 million investment is projected to leverage as much as $75 million of external capital from investors, lenders and government sources.
SELF’s Chief Strategic and Financial Officer Duanne Andrade explained the green bank model in more detail to the Miami Herald, including how it helps low and moderate-income people afford upgrades like hurricane-resistant roofs, solar panels, or efficient air-conditioning systems.
“Those are all expensive items that typically working-class people couldn’t afford easily,” she said. “It’s not fair for only the wealthy to be able to access those home improvements that would serve the low income the most and the best.”
Such improvements require a big upfront investment, but they save homeowners money over time in the form of lower electricity bills and cheaper home insurance.
The key to accessing these technologies, Andrade said, is affordable financing. Higher-income people can pay with cash or get a loan from a bank — an option often unavailable to those with lower income.
“Because they may not have great credit scores or high incomes, they’re going to be hit with high-interest rates,” she said. “Low-income populations pay much more, proportionally speaking, for housing costs and operating costs for their homes.”
SELF lends to low and moderate-income homeowners and structures the loan around what the customer can afford to pay, rather than what would generate the most profit. With this award, SELF will also be creating a new SELF Housing and Community Impact Fund (HCIF) for affordable housing and multifamily rehabs.
While customers may be thinking mostly about their savings, these efforts reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to climate change threatening South Florida residents. The new initiative’s focus on areas near rail transit provides an added layer of emissions reduction benefit, since residents of the new developments will be able to use low-emissions trains as an alternative to driving. This makes the initiative a perfect fit for South Florida as it faces down both rising housing costs and rising seas.
Learn more about the new initiative: