2020 Annual Report
CEO Letter from Susan Boyd
In 2020, we were inspired by you. Thank you for everything you did to make 2020 a year of inspiration.
-Susan Boyd, CEO
Many of us are very happy to have 2020 in the rearview mirror. The year was one of loss, struggle and pain. For me, the year was also a source of inspiration. In this annual report, we mark some things that inspired us about the year, and that we think you will find uplifting.
Notwithstanding the challenges of the pandemic, in 2020, Bellwether began construction of over 600 new affordable homes in three neighborhoods. In 2020, we found new ways to support residents struggling with job loss, isolation and anxiety. In 2020, we were reminded that, while our organization has long been focused on issues of racial equity, there is more for us to understand and do.
And we were inspired by you. During 2020, you helped us close out our Building Opportunity capital campaign a year ahead of schedule. You sent notes of encouragement and support. And by contributing to us, you allowed us to make sure every household struggling to pay rent had the help they needed to pay their rent.
Thank you for everything you did to make 2020 a year of inspiration.
Covid-19 Rent Relief Program
Many Bellwether residents lost work during the COVID-19 pandemic and were unable to pay rent. Our Resident Services Team identified all residents eligible for Seattle rental assistance and walked them through the complex application progress. Helping our residents get rental assistance and stay housed is some of the most important work Bellwether has ever done.
In 2020, thanks to the determination of community partners and our Real Estate Development Team, we broke ground on three exciting projects: The Confluence in March, Cedar Crossing in June, and The Rise on Madison in September. The pandemic brought added restrictions to the building process, but the team’s resiliency allowed construction to safely stay on track.
Along with our partners at Mercy Housing Northwest and Plymouth Housing, we hosted two virtual Groundbreakings that brought together hundreds of people to celebrate these two buildings. To see these under construction is a tremendous feat, and it was great to celebrate these buildings with everyone virtually!
Cedar Crossing Groundbreaking
Cedar Crossing is our joint project with Mercy Housing Northwest creating 254 family-friendly apartments in the wonderful Roosevelt neighborhood. Cedar Crossing, slated for completion in 2022, includes innovative community partnerships with Sound Transit, Mary’s Place, Seattle Children’s Hospital, Seattle Housing Authority, and El Centro de la Raza.
The Rise on Madison Groundbreaking
This high rise combines two distinct apartment complexes into one landmark building. On floors 1-5, Plymouth Housing will offer 115 studios for seniors who have experienced chronic homelessness. On floors 6-17, “The Rise on Madison”, Bellwether will offer 253 homes. Together, they form vibrant, diverse community in the thriving First Hill neighborhood. The name our portion of the building, The Rise on Madison, references that this project is the first affordable housing high-rise built in Seattle in over fifty years.
Building Opportunity Campaign Exceeds Goals
In October, we successfully completed our Building Opportunity Campaign.
When we started this campaign, our goal was to raise $9M to build 750 homes. We exceeded our goals:
• We raised $9.2M.
• We are building nearly 800 homes in four new buildings.
• We finished the campaign a year early and in the midst of a pandemic.
The purpose of the campaign was to use private support to create affordable homes and more rapidly respond to the housing crisis in our region.
Bellwether was the first nonprofit in the nation to use crowdfunding to build affordable homes, attracting 180 investors who ultimately contributed $4.7M.
We raised $4.5 million in donations from corporations, foundations, and individuals. Thank you to The Wells Fargo Foundation and the Bank of America Foundation who provided lead gifts at the campaign's outset. Deepest gratitude to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Norcliffe Foundation and the Puget Sound Boeing Employees Community Fund whose gifts rapidly advanced our campaign and to Amazon who matched employee giving dollar for dollar.
Our 800 new homes will be in First Hill, Roosevelt, Rainier Beach, and Tukwila. Three of these projects, The Confluence, Cedar Crossing, and The Rise on Madison are currently under construction. All these developments are near light rail, transit, and host of other community resources.
Affordable Housing Remains A GOOD INVESTMENT
In 2015, 35 socially conscious investors did something revolutionary. They contributed $1.8 million in private investments to buy and rehabilitate The Parker Apartments, an affordable housing development in Queen Anne. Today, the Parker is home to 50 families who all benefit from having an affordable home close to great schools, parks, transportation, job centers and more. The first round of investments in The Parker reached maturity at the end of 2020 and we were pleased to have 77% of the fund renewed for a total of $1.4 million reinvested in affordable homes.
I originally invested in Bellwether because they provide stable housing for the working people who keep our city vibrant. I reinvested because in addition to that important work they provide a consistent return on my capital. With Bellwether, I can do good and do well at the same time.
– Elise Lufkin, Investor
Bellwether Gets A New Look
In 2020, Bellwether Housing updated our logo and brand identity to better reflect our mission. Our brand refresh was guided by feedback from residents, staff, board members and other key stakeholders, culminating in a bold new logo and appearance just in time for our 40th anniversary.
Since our founding, Bellwether Housing’s core belief is that safe and stable housing opens doors and makes it possible for people to grow and thrive. Our new logo reflects that value. The vivid colors reflect a willingness to take risks and stand out from the crowd. The vine symbolizes our impending growth and our commitment to sustainability. The overall feel evokes warmth, energy, and hope. We were thrilled to share our new image with our community and for the strong positive response.
2020 Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Work
In 2020, Bellwether Housing, guided by our staff-led Equity Committee, took the following actions to be more equitable and further our commitment to anti-racism.
Changed the screening criteria for new residents to reduce barriers to housing.
Lowered fees charged to residents.
COVID Response – Resident Support
Created a $250,000 rental assistance fund for residents economically impacted by the pandemic.
Hired Muslim Housing Services to provide culturally and linguistically appropriate support to residents at the Kingway Apartments during the pandemic.
Raised funding to hire three local catering businesses to prepare over 10,000 meals that we delivered to residents. All three business are women-owned and two are owned by women of color.
Secured $1.22 million in rental assistance for residents impacted by the coronavirus pandemic
COVID Response – Staff Support
Paid an ongoing equity stipend to compensate front-line employees who were required to be in the field.
Paid a $150 stipend for employees working remotely for home office equipment.
Temporarily changed our PTO policy to allow negative PTO balances in support of employees’ physical and emotional needs during the pandemic and protests for racial justice.
Compensation and Advancement:
Created a compensation philosophy and transparent pay scale, showing the pay ranges for all jobs, which will be updated annually.
Made equity adjustments for employees whose salaries were low based on historical pay rates.
In 2020, 57% of employees promoted were BIPOC.
Re-evaluated job requirements so fewer positions require a college degree.
Holidays and Time Off:
Recognized Juneteenth as a company holiday.
Shifted our holiday policy so employees have the flexibility to select alternate holiday(s).
Created a bereavement policy of up to five business days of paid leave per year in the case of the death of a loved one. “Loved ones” was expansively defined to include all family members including step and in-laws, close friends, roommates, and pets.
Black Lives Matter Support:
On June 12, 2020, we joined the Black Lives Matter Seattle-King County’s Statewide General Strike and March for Black Lives. We closed early and provided employees paid time off. Staff were able to use the day to rest, reflect, protest in person, or act remotely.
Invited all staff and board to attend a virtual “How to Be an Antiracist" event hosted by Ibram X. Kendi, an American author, historian and leading scholar of race and discriminatory policy in America. Provided paid work time to support this session.
All managers attended a four-part training called Engaging Employees About Equity.
These figures exclude depreciation from expenses and gains from inter-company transactions from revenue.
*Bellwether Housing was gifted land on which to build The Rise in the First Hill Neighborhood and Mary's Boathouse, a property located in Capitol Hill.