- Florida de novo Climate First Bank is developing a specialized loan program to finance the retrofitting and storm hardening of Florida condominiums against volatile weather events caused by climate change, the community bank announced last week.
- The environmental, social and governance (ESG)-focused bank, which opened in June, said the program, which is in its early stages, will target "vulnerable seaside communities of Florida where frequent storm surges, increased high tide flooding and severe hurricanes result in saltwater corrosion and other damages to condominium infrastructure."
- The St. Petersburg, Florida-based bank is the third de novo venture for community bank veteran Ken LaRoe, who launched Florida Choice Bank in 1999, and his first climate-focused venture, First Green Bank, in 2009. He sold the former in 2006 and the latter 12 years later.
"Two-thirds of the condos in the Miami area are over 30 years old. In seven other Florida cities, around three-quarters of condos have hit that age," LaRoe said in a statement. "This is a massive issue and we’re looking to address both sides of the problem. Not only are these buildings extremely vulnerable to severe weather, but they’re also extremely inefficient. We want sustainability and adaptability of the structure to work hand in hand."
Climate First Bank said it is working with Gloria Romero Roses, a shareholder and senior adviser to the board of directors, to construct the program.
Romero Roses, who is based in Miami, is holding focus groups with building owners, property managers and condominium associations in Miami-Dade and Broward counties to assess needs and challenges of the underwriting process, the bank said.
"The effects of rising seas, hotter temperatures and access to clean drinking water are becoming more pronounced challenges, and I am enthusiastic about the opportunity to roll up my sleeves and meet the needs of the people in the state," Romero Roses said in a statement. "We are going to give property owners, builders, developers and condominium association board members new tools to face the challenges and overcome them. Our tomorrow depends on it."
The development of the loan program follows a solar energy loan program the climate-focused bank launched in July.
Climate First Bank aims to offer its clients incentives to make sustainable choices, and doesn’t finance extractive industries, such as fracking, or partner with agriculture production projects it considers harmful to the environment, LaRoe told Banking Dive last year.
The bank, which opened with more than $30 million in investor funding — almost doubling the $17 million capital goal it set out to achieve last fall — also has a fintech partnership in the works.
Neobank Atmos, which shares a similar sustainable lending focus as Climate First, plans to enter into a banking-as-a-service partnership with the community bank, the two firms told Banking Dive in May.
"We're going to hopefully hit the ground running on our solar program and can provide data and feedback to [Atmos] pretty quickly," LaRoe said in May.