Orange County backs loan pro­gram

Fo­cuses on fund­ing for en­ergy-ef­fi­cient homes

Orlando Sentinel - - Local & State - By Stephen Hu­dak

Tonya Erwin thinks an Orange County-backed home-im­prove­ment pro­gram is pretty cool, and now so is her house.

Erwin, 64, used the So­lar and En­ergy Loan Fund pro­gram a few years ago to pay for a new air­con­di­tioner for the Or­lando home she has owned since 1993.

“You can’t live in Florida with­out AC,” she said. “The first few months af­ter get­ting my AC in­stalled I woke up ev­ery morn­ing thank­ful I could sleep com­fort­ably again.”

Founded in 2011, the not-for­profit pro­gram, known as SELF, pro­vides home-own­ers with below-mar­ket-rate loans for en­er­gy­ef­fi­cient, home-im­prove­ments projects. Erwin, who is dis­abled, said an en­ergy-ef­fi­cient air con­di­tioner would not have fit in her lim­ited bud­get at mar­ket rates.

The county ap­proved $50,000 in fund­ing last month to sup­port SELF’s mis­sion.

Through the first eight months of fis­cal year 2019-20, the pro­gram has helped 250 home­own­ers fi­nance over $2 mil­lion worth of home im­prove­ment projects in Florida.

SELF has sim­i­lar fund­ing agree­ments with Or­lando and Hills­bor­ough, Martin and St. Lu­cie coun­ties. The city helped the pro­gram se­cure a $50,000 grant from the Bloomberg Phi­lan­thropies Amer­i­can Cities Cli­mate Chal­lenge. The aid will help the non­profit lender sup­port sus­tain­abil­ity ini­tia­tives in both Or­lando and Orange County.

Since it be­gan op­er­at­ing in Cen­tral Florida in 2014, SELF has done $1.2 mil­lion in lend­ing projects in Orange County, ben­e­fit­ing 141 house­holds

The pro­gram set monthly lend­ing records in April, then again in May, de­spite the coro­n­avirus pan­demic, said Doug Coward, its founder and ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor.

“With stay-at-home sit­u­a­tions,

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