Success Story: MyStrongHome
April 06, 2021
Introduction – Calvert Impact Capital's history with MyStrongHome
In December 2016, Calvert Impact Capital made a loan to MyStrongHome, an innovative new social enterprise working to fortify coastal communities against climate change impacts. MyStrongHome was founded in 2015 by Margot Brandenburg, who was exploring private sector solutions for extreme weather resilience in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. She believed that the increasing economic and social costs of climate change created an urgent imperative, and business opportunity, to invest in resilience. Multiple studies have found that every $1 invested in disaster mitigation saves society $4-6.
Margot had learned of low-tech upgrades that could make roofs and other parts of a home’s exterior “storm-ready,” which is critical for preventing damage from hurricanes and the insurance claims that accompany them. She developed a strategy to offer financing to low-income homeowners in coastal areas to upgrade their roofs and windows, making their homes more resilient to wind damage and lowering their insurance premiums. The insurance savings could often cover the entire cost of those roof and other upgrades. In addition to providing financing for roof fortification, MyStrongHome wanted to change how local governments and insurance companies think about managing risk and encourage them to implement cost-effective preventative measures in disaster-prone areas.
How did our financing impact MyStrongHome and catalyze impact in communities?
As part of our portfolio strategy to build, grow, and sustain innovative models, Calvert Impact Capital was eager to help MyStrongHome build and grow their promising model to create impact for homeowners in coastal communities across the US. Through our syndication services, we arranged a $10 million facility from three additional lenders, as well as a guarantee from MacArthur Foundation, and provided a loan from our own portfolio.
Climate resilience finance was a nascent market in 2016; MyStrongHome was the only organization offering home fortification financing, and particularly the only one working with low- and moderate-income homeowners. As a start-up with an innovative but unfamiliar product, MyStrongHome’s team worked tirelessly to influence consumer behavior. Through hands-on engagement with their clients and emphasizing the long-term benefits and savings, they motivated consumers and families to prioritize taking measures like roof fortification to prevent against hurricane damage. They also developed strong partnerships with local community development financial institutions (CDFIs) and insurance companies, which helped them build a stronger pipeline of clients.
Through our lending relationship, we offered strategic support and advice as MyStrongHome grew, including coordinating with the various lenders in the syndicated facility. “Calvert Impact Capital provided an incredible combination of rigor, discipline, and oversight, all with an understanding that this was a new model. It was just an incredible partnership in getting all the financing in place,” said Margot.
Over the three years of operations, our syndicated facility helped MyStrongHome expand to create safer homes for hundreds of homeowners in Alabama, South Carolina, Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi who, on average, experienced $1,000 in annual insurance savings.
What can we learn from MyStrongHome's efforts?
MyStrongHome demonstrated that financing roof fortification and other low-tech home improvements could be effective wind damage mitigation measures, and that impact investors could channel capital effectively to support this impact. Ultimately however, they found that this model is much more effective when integrated within an operating entity, such as the CDFIs that MyStrongHome worked with, which allowed them to utilize existing infrastructure, dramatically reduce costs, and gain operational efficiencies. MyStrongHome also found that it underestimated the strength of the government and insurance companies’ status quo, which is often hamstrung when faced with the complex problem of hurricane risk.
In June 2020, the National Energy Improvement Fund (NEIF) acquired MyStrongHome and integrated the resilience improvement financing product into their lending channels, expanding access even further to underbanked homeowners with lower credit scores. A Florida-based CDFI, the Solar Energy Loan Fund (SELF), also integrated the homeowner insurance savings methodology that MyStrongHome developed into their own underwriting and bought a portion of MyStrongHome’s portfolio.
Margot continues to serve as a Senior Advisor to NEIF, in addition to bringing her experience to her role as a Program Officer at Ford Foundation, where she focuses on building and strengthening the infrastructure of the impact investing market with an eye to shaping the broader capital markets. Margot reflected on the difference that partnering with Calvert Impact Capital made in growing MyStrongHome:
“It’s easy to show up at a conference or panel, but rarer to find a lender that actually manifests those values throughout the course of a transaction: raising capital, follow-on, and exit. Calvert Impact Capital has been the best-in-class version of that – and no one can know that without going through an actual transaction.” - Margot Brandenburg
We look forward to following MyStrongHome’s success as NEIF continues to grow the MyStrongHome model and expand their impact on homeowners in coastal communities.
 FEMA Fact Sheet. Available at: https://www.fema.gov/pdf/hazard/hurricane/2008/gustav/mitigations_value_factsheet2008.pdf.  Home Insurance Facts and Statistics: Coverage & Claims. Available at: https://www.valuepenguin.com/home-insurance-statistics