Yet the cost of upgrading to a more efficient air conditioner, adding extra insulation to a home or retrofitting leaky windows is beyond the means of many low- to moderate-income families.
That's where the
SELF was founded in
By making small, low-interest loans available to homeowners, Coward reasoned he could not only reduce people's power bills, he could also help generate new jobs in the hard-hit construction industry.
Coward had barely assembled a consortium of four local banks and a
Despite these setbacks, SELF has grown, both financially and geographically. Inside four years it's expanded to cover five counties as far away as
SELF's expansion came through the use of funds from faith-based organizations, many from outside our area. It will continue along that path, but recently received some good news locally.
One of the original banks in the consortium, PNC, decided to invest
Even though SELF's target clients may not be the richest, they tend to be stable customers. Of the 250 loans so far, the delinquency rate sits at a low 3 percent.
The average residential loan is about
Two of the biggest misperceptions about SELF, Andrade said, are that they only do solar (in fact, 85 percent of their business is in nonsolar technologies) and that they only cater to low- and medium-income clients.
In fact, a growing number of SELF clients come from
"I purchased my home four years ago as a single parent," she said. "In the last four years, I've completed nursing school and started a new career, but I still could not afford to do some much-needed updates on my 1960s home. I had no equity in the home, so I didn't qualify for a home-equity loan, and I couldn't obtain a home improvement loan either."
Foster saw a SELF booth at the Home Show at
I've championed SELF a number of times and the organization seems to be growing at a steady pace. Coward and Andrade both spoke of the irony that for a while it was easier to attract investors from across the country than on their home turf. So the PNC investment is very good news and may be a sign of greater financial opportunities to come in the future.
SELF's track record has made it a national model in getting the job done rather than simply theorizing about energy efficiency. Coward said he's fielded calls from
"We're the boots on the ground," Coward said. "We've excelled at that. Now we need to cultivate new clients."
The future looks bright and pretty cool -- especially if you can swing that new AC unit.
(c)2014 the Treasure Coast Newspapers (Stuart, Fla.)
Visit the Treasure Coast Newspapers (Stuart, Fla.) at www.tcpalm.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services