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 Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee (DEI 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.

 

Equitable Employer

Our DEI 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 $2,500 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. Since this practice was initiated, we have had 43 internal promotions, and in 2020, 57% of the employees promoted identified as BIPOC.

 

Two years ago, 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 bonus system 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 from March 2020 to present. 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. And we have radically altered our holiday policy to ensure that everyone can take the holidays that are meaningful to them, regardless of religion or cultural heritage.

 Equitable pay and benefits 

Bellwether engages in challenging work, and effectively living out our mission requires a diversity of perspectives, skills, and experience. We are also aware that our organization is identified as being culturally white, so we have to be proactive about recruiting BIPOC candidates. We publish all job openings to several diversity recruiting websites. We partner with outside recruiting sources to actively engage a diverse candidate pool. Our leadership team and hiring managers attend mandatory trainings to address unconscious bias, especially within the recruiting process. Over the past several years, our leadership team has gone from having just one person of color (1 out of 7) to being half BIPOC (5 out of 10).

 Hiring for diversity 

 In addition to being a partner with the Executive Leadership team on the various equity initiatives outlined here, our DEI Committee hosts an annual Introduction to Structural Racism workshop for all staff and the board of directors. It writes monthly letters to staff, focusing on different areas of social justice. To increase transparency about our internal DEI conversations, these letters are published on our public blog. Prior to COVID-19, the DEI Committee also hosted monthly Lunch and Learn conversations for staff to talk about various equity issues.

 DEI Committee 

 

We were the first housing organization in Seattle to enact an ongoing daily equity stipend to compensate front line workers from March 2020 to present


Supporting & Partnering with BIPOC Community Leaders, Organizations & Businesses
 

 Partnerships 

In the past two years, 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 and are two childcare facilities that be operated by BIPOC organizations (El Centro de la Raza and Empowering Youth and Families Outreach) that will 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 

We have been intentional about recruiting and supporting leaders of various BIPOC communities for our board of directors. By the end of 2021, our board of directors will be at least 40% BIPOC, up from 11% in past years.

 Donations 

Over the past two years Bellwether has directed nearly all of its charitable contributions (over $230,000) to organizations that are run by and serve BIPOC populations, including Chief Seattle Club, Byrd-Barr Place, Muslim Housing Services, Empowering Youth and Family Outreach, Refugee Women’s Alliance, Rainier Beach Action Coalition, Urban Impact and El Centro de la Raza. We will continue to prioritize these organizations in our future giving.

 


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 25% 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.

 Pandemic support 

Over the past 18 months, we have taken action to support our residents through the challenges COVID-19. We created a $250,000 rental assistance fund. We contracted with partner organizations with specific cultural and linguistic skills to help us connect with our immigrant households who needed support. We hired three local catering businesses (all women-owned and two BIPOC owned) to prepare over 10,000 meals that we delivered to residents. And we worked relentlessly to ensure that every one of our residents has the resources they need to pay their rent. To date, we have secured $1.22 million in rental assistance for residents impacted by the pandemic, helping over 550 unique households maintain their housing.

 

 


Equitable Housing Development
 

 Prevent Displacement 

In the past two years, Bellwether has 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.  We currently have acquired or have under contract over 500 of those units.

 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.

 

2022 Racial Diversity at Bellwether Housing

Group
Black
Asian
Hispanic
Native American
White
Multiracial
Other
Not Disclosed
Pacific Islander / Native Hawaiian
Leadership Team
0%
9%
9%
9%
55%
20%
0%
0%
9%
Board
16
11
0%
0%
73%
0%
0%
0%
0%
People Leaders
17%
9%
14%
3%
46%
3%
0%
0%
6%
Staff
22%
8%
5%
2%
54%
6%
0%
3%
1.4%
Residents
30%
10%
7%
1%
31%
3%
5%
14%
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
63%
36%
0%
Board
47%
53%
0%
People Leaders
60%
40%
0%
Staff
54%
46%
0%
Residents
51%
49%
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 Sept 2021.

  • Leadership Team data is self-reported and updated as of Sept 2021

  • People Leaders includes our Leadership team, as well as staff in management positions. It is self-reported by staff and current as of Sept 2021.

  • Bellwether staff includes all staff, including People Leaders. Self reported by staff and current as of Sept 2021.

  • 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.