With growing inflation and interest rates rising, homeowners are looking for smart ways to save money. Reducing the energy costs by installing efficient air conditioning systems, new attic insulation or solar energy products is a good place to start. But, for lower-income homeowners, or homeowners with weak credit, access to financing for such projects can be very challenging. Traditional banks’ lending criteria don’t always accommodate self-employed workers or non-traditional households, and programs like PACE have occasionally been critiqued for predatory lending practices, although many are satisfied with their experience. There are other alternatives, including St- Petersburg-based First Climate Bank, a pending B-Corporation, and SELF (Solar and Energy Loan Fund) a certified CDFI, 501 (c) (3) organization. These organizations specialize in this type of lending and often offer favorable terms compared to traditional personal loans or purchasing on a credit card.
SELF, which is based out of Ft. Pierce and has offices in Orlando, St. Petersburg, and Hillsborough County, provides financing state-wide for both low-income homeowners and owners of multi-family apartment properties with low-income tenants. They have special programs for women, veterans, disabled adults and seniors, who often struggle to qualify for financing. See https://solarenergyloanfund.org/. Like other solar and energy-focused lending institutions, they finance solar products, storm resilience improvements, like impact windows and roofing, and weatherization projects. But SELF also provides funds for sewer and water projects, which is important for homeowners with septic systems that want to connect to the municipal sewer. The cost of the connection between the home and the street is commonly the responsibility of the property owner and can be several thousand dollars depending on the distance. This makes it hard for low-income owners to make these improvements which both enhance the property and the natural environment. Transitioning homeowners from septic to sewer is an important step toward reducing nutrients and other pollutants in the stormwater run off and minimizing algal blooms in surrounding canals.
As we enter the 2022 hurricane season, many homeowners must take stock and assess if their homes are safe shelter during storms. Older homes often need costly updates to their windows and roofs to withstand hurricane winds. Homeowners that have contemplated these improvements in the past, but found them cost-prohibitive are encouraged to look at tools that will allow these life-saving improvements to be implemented.