2020 was a year of unending disruption — one that called on all of us to do our part to address the country’s monumental challenges.
As the pandemic raged, so did unemployment, forest fires and political chaos. These concurrent crises shed light on societal inequities that have existed for a very long time. Many of the issues we have been working on for 35 years — affordable housing, climate change, access to healthcare, food insecurity, racial and economic justice — got more airtime and more public attention than ever before. While few will look back fondly on 2020, we hope that the spotlight it put on inequality will accelerate economic change and bring new strength to the battle against injustice.
In this report, we highlight long-standing borrowers who rapidly pivoted to address unexpected issues born of the pandemic — schools supplying their students’ “school” lunches at home and healthcare providers instantly implementing a telehealth visit format. We also highlight new partners who are working on the defining issues of today — housing insecurity, environmental sustainability, healthcare inequities and the racial wealth gap. In both cases, we are proud that our partnership helped our borrowers serve, build and protect their vulnerable communities.
At BlueHub, one of our core operating principles is good times provide an opportunity to prepare for bad times. As a result, COVID-19 notwithstanding, we continue to have the organizational and financial strength to meet the changing needs of the communities we serve. We have long offered our employees the flexibility to work remotely, so that they can care for children and parents, attend school, and engage in community work. Consequently, when the pandemic hit, we already had the systems in place to transition seamlessly to all-remote work, while continuing to be productive and engaged.
We also extended that flexibility to our borrowers. We made a concerted effort to connect with BlueHub Loan Fund and BlueHub SUN Initiative borrowers to identify their unique challenges brought on by COVID-19, and we worked with them to address those hurdles.
Despite the disruption, we continued on-task and on-mission:
Over the course of the year, BlueHub Loan Fund carefully managed new lending opportunities, leveraged longstanding local partnerships across the country and utilized virtual technology to conduct due diligence. Our patient capital enabled borrowers to continue their important work, often in the neighborhoods hit hardest by the pandemic.
- BlueHub Loan Fund provided $48 million in loans across 12 states, including Texas, a new territory for us.
Anticipating a flood of new foreclosures, BlueHub SUN paused lending and has been scrubbing systems, enhancing underwriting and preparing to lend in four new states: Delaware, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin.
- In the face of COVID-19, we offered our current borrowers short-term payment deferral. About 23% of SUN borrowers took advantage of our offer of forbearance, and 63% of those borrowers have already returned to their payment schedules.
- 59 of our current borrowers, about 9% of the portfolio, were able to refinance out of the SUN Initiative and reenter the conventional mortgage market, taking advantage of low interest rates to reduce their monthly housing costs even further.
BlueHub Energy accomplished a major victory with the passage of a new state law that removes barriers to accessing solar energy for low-income households in Massachusetts. Working with a coalition of environmental and consumer advocates, BlueHub championed provisions that will make it easier for residents with low incomes to utilize solar energy and realize the savings on their electric bills.
Today, we have much to be optimistic about: a vaccine rollout, a robust federal stimulus directed at low-income families and communities, a forecast of economic recovery — and a broad recognition that community development financial institutions, like BlueHub Capital, are essential partners in an equitable, inclusive recovery.
As the country recovers, our mission to build healthy communities where low-income people live and work has never felt more urgent or more important. Your support and your partnership, as always, fuel our work. Thank you for your staunch and continuing support.