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Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Our Commitment to Anti-Racism

Since 2016, Bellwether has been bringing racial justice to the forefront of our work. Our equity work has included four broad initiatives:

1. Becoming an equitable employer

2. Supporting and partnering with Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) leaders, organizations, and businesses

3. Centering our residents

4. Equitable housing development.

A primary element of all these initiatives has been our employee Equity Committee, which was formed in 2016 to lead on some of these initiatives, provide perspective to the leadership team and others, and challenge Bellwether’s existing approaches to each of these things. Members of this committee represent all levels, all departments, and many racial backgrounds within the organization.

Anti-Racism

Equitable Employer

Our Equity Committee has called Bellwether to put significant attention to making sure that our employees, particularly our BIPOC employees, have access to opportunities for growth and advancement within the organization.

Education, training, and opportunities for advancement

Several years ago, Bellwether established an educational advancement fund that gives employees seeking training or certification for a higher-level position within Bellwether up to $1,500 toward the cost of that training. This is in addition to a $2,000 annual training budget per employee to pay for the cost of any training or education to serve them in their current position.

 

We created a formal compensation philosophy and transparent pay scale, showing the pay ranges for all jobs. We analyzed our compensation practices and fixed pay disparities that reflected racial or gender bias. We stopped asking for and using pay history as the basis for salary offers. We re-evaluated job requirements to eliminate education or experience requirements that were unnecessary barriers for historically marginalized populations. We changed our retirement profit-sharing program, which occurs in years when the organization has an excess of cash flow,  from one that was paid out as a percentage of income to one that is equal for all employees, regardless of pay, removing a practice that exacerbated pay disparity within the organization. When the COVID-19 pandemic required front-line workers to be onsite, a majority of whom are BIPOC, we were the first housing organization in Seattle to enact an ongoing daily equity stipend to compensate them. We aggressively invest in benefits for our employees, giving employees at all levels access to great health care benefits and making significant contributions to employee retirement funds.

Equitable pay and benefits

Bellwether created a staff-driven Equity Committee in 2016.  The Equity Committee is made up of employees from many functions within the organization, and its purposes are to:

  • Hold Bellwether leaders accountable to our equity pillars (listed below)

  • Partner with Bellwether’s leadership in building a diverse, inclusive, fair and equitable workplace

  • Enhance employee understanding of Bellwether’s equity commitment and work

  • Serve as a conduit for employees at all levels of the organization to have input into and influence over that work

Bellwether’s equity pillars are:

  • Create and operate our housing in a manner that dignifies our residents and gives them access to the resources and opportunities they need to thrive

  • Center our residents in everything we do

  • Build a diverse workforce, provide equitable compensation and internal policies, create equitable opportunities for professional development and advancement and promote a workplace culture that respects and celebrates all identities

  • Support and partner with organizations and businesses lead by and/or serving Black, Indigenous and People of Color, persons with disabilities and members of the LGBTQ+ community

Equity Committee

Equitable Employer


Supporting & Partnering with BIPOC Community Leaders, Organizations & Businesses
 

Partnerships

Bellwether has built important, new partnerships with BIPOC organizations to build the capacity of those organizations, better serve our residents and communities, and learn new ways to approach our own work. We have raised money to construct two childcare facilities operated by BIPOC organizations (El Centro de la Raza and Empowering Youth and Families Outreach) that serve lower-income children and focus on BIPOC families. We are working with Muslim Housing Services to build their new headquarters and program space in our new Flourish on Rainier development. This partnership is structured to allow MHS to become the owner of this space in 15 years. And we have entered into a joint venture with the Chief Seattle Club to build 200 units of affordable housing prioritized for lower income Native American families and a longhouse to honor Native education and cultural practices, all on the campus of the North Seattle College.

Procurement

Bellwether strives to hire BIPOC retailers, restaurants, suppliers, and contractors whenever possible. We are working with general contractors to get at least 15% WMBE sub-contractors on every job site. On this project, we aim to achieve 20% WMBE contractors. In 2022, we will hire a full-time procurement specialist who will help us focus on BIPOC suppliers for our building, office, and maintenance supplies.

 

Board Membership

Our board members have experience in affordable housing, law, public relations, business management, real estate (including real estate-related services such as property management, development, and finance), and the tech sector. Our board members value lived experience: one board member has experienced homelessness, one board member lived in affordable housing, and another has experience as an immigrant. Currently, Bellwether's 15-member board is 60% women and 34% people of color. Every member of the board has demonstrated a commitment to furthering the mission of affordable housing. Three of our board members' professional careers have been devoted to developing multifamily housing in urban markets. Three members bring professional experience in affordable housing.

BIPOC Partnerships


Centering Residents
 

At its core, our work is rooted in race and social justice. Nearly 60% of our residents identify as BIPOC. The average income of a Bellwether household is less than 40% of the area median income. One of the pillars of our strategic plan is ensuring that our residents receive the customer service and support they need to thrive in our housing and that they are involved in informing our policies, practices, and developments. We have also worked to rid our organization of unnecessary barriers to housing that perpetuate institutional injustices.

Lowering barriers to housing

Over the past several years, Bellwether has been making significant changes in its leasing policies and processes to make our housing accessible to as many households as possible. We have changed everything from how we look at criminal backgrounds and debt owed to past landlords to unnecessary or redundant documentation requirements that have historically permeated our sector. Lowering barriers to housing has allowed us to serve more households coming out of homelessness, families and individuals connected with the criminal justice system and other households excluded by typical landlord screening criteria, all of whom are disproportionately BIPOC. We work closely with organizations such as the Housing Connector, LEAD/Reach, King County Vets, Muslim Housing Services and Mary’s Place to successfully house these residents. Today, nearly 30% of new households come out of homelessness or the criminal justice system.

Increasing our resident services team

As Bellwether has grown, lowered barriers to housing and served more complex populations, the need for our resident services program has increased. This program receives minimal public funding support, yet our resident service coordinators are critical to ensuring residents are stable, children and their families have the support they need to thrive, and our elders and disabled residents have the supports they need to stay healthy and age in place. Bellwether has committed to expanding its fund development capacity so we can expand our resident services program.

Centering Residents


Equitable Housing Development
 

Prevent Displacement

Bellwether launched an aggressive initiative to acquire at least 850 homes in South King County.  Bellwether is targeting neighborhoods and buildings that are predominantly occupied by families of color and are highly vulnerable to large rent increases in the coming years, as transit and gentrification arrives in these southern suburbs.

Build in Neighborhoods of Opportunity

Since 2016, Bellwether has targeted new development in neighborhoods that have incredible access to transit, public services such as libraries, parks and good schools, and allow for strong ties to community supports such as YMCA’s, Boys & Girls Clubs, community centers, health care facilities and food banks.  We have developed or are developing in Queen Anne, Roosevelt, the University District, First Hill, Bitterlake and Rainier Beach.

House Families

While Bellwether’s resident population overall is a majority BIPOC, our larger households with children are nearly 80% families of color.  And low-income families have fewer housing options than any other population in Seattle.  Since 2016, Bellwether has prioritized the development of 2-, 3- and 4-bedroom units to create as many options as possible for low-income families.  Although these units are more challenging to develop and operate, Bellwether believes it is imperative that our community be a place in which lower income families – particularly BIPOC families - can thrive.  Nearly 40% of the units we currently have under development are family-sized units.

Engage Communities

Over the past several years, Bellwether has significantly increased its community engagement activities – both as a new developer entering a community and as an operator of housing once we have become part of a neighborhood.  We engage with neighbors, non-profit organizations, churches, schools and businesses that represent neighborhood interests.   We invite these community members to understand our mission and inform our plans.  We ask them to hold us accountable as a good neighbor.  And we engage them as supports for our current and future residents.

Equitable Housing

2022 Racial Diversity at Bellwether Housing

Group
Black
Asian
Hispanic
Native American
Pacific Islander / Native Hawaiian
White
Multiracial
Other
Not Disclosed
Leadership Team
11%
11%
11%
55%
11%
Board
17%
11%
72%
People Leaders
16%
11%
3%
0%
1%
60%
6%
3%
Staff
39%
6%
1%
1%
1%
35%
12%
5%
Residents
29%
11%
8%
1%
1%
31%
5%
1%
13%
King County 2010
6%
15%
9%
1%
69%
5%
4%
N/A
King County 2019*
7%
21%
10%
1%
66%
5%
N/A
N/A

2022 Gender Diversity at Bellwether Housing

Group
Women
Men
Nonbinary
Leadership Team
66%
44%
0%
Board
50%
50%
0%
People Leaders
51%
49%
0%
Staff
53%
47%
0%
Residents
55%
45%
N/A
King County 2010
50%
50%
N/A
King County 2019*
50%
50%
N/A

About the Data

Bellwether Groups

  • Board of Directors data is self-reported by board members as of December 2022.

  • Leadership Team data is self-reported and updated as of December 2022.

  • People Leaders includes our Leadership team, as well as staff in management positions. It is self-reported by staff and current as of December 2022.

  • Bellwether staff includes all staff, including People Leaders. Self reported by staff and current as of December 2022.

  • Bellwether resident data is from our 2019 Annual Resident Survey.​

King County Data Sources

  • King County 2019 data is from a 2019 Census Estimate from Census.Gov. The most recent full census data is from 2010, available at KingCounty.gov​.

Data Notes

  • All percentages have been rounded to the nearest 1%. 

  • Totals may add up to more than 100% to reflect when multiple categories were selected.

  • N/A = not asked by that data source / survey.

The Data
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