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  • The $15 Debate

    This is a big deal. Seattle City Council just approved a gradual increase of the minimum wage to $15.00 per hour. Seattle is indeed the bellwether when it comes to the national debate over the minimum wage. This debate is an interesting one for me personally because if you were to ask me before, if the minimum wage should be increased, I would not have to think about it. Yes! Of course! Seattle already has one of the highest minimum wages in the country but also a high cost of living and the people who work minimum wage jobs still struggle to afford basic necessities. Especially if they have a family to support. This article from March discusses the results of a UW study that looked at how a $15 minimum wage increase would affect Seattle’s population. Overall, it’s pretty clear that the increase will help at least a quarter of Seattle’s working population. It’s also clear that the hospitality and restaurant industries will be most affected. As with any debate, there are two sides. $15NOW is on the extreme side in favor of the increase. They wanted it across-the-board and they wanted it immediately. Nick Hanauer, a multimillionaire and staunch supporter of the $15 minimum wage, was on Seattle Mayor Ed Murray’s advisory committee and he gives some great insight in this Politico piece into why this minimum wage increase is important, for individuals and for the economy. Based on this article, I think the Mayor’s group did a good job working together to make a plan. On the other side of the coin are those who think that raising the minimum wage will kill small businesses and make everything more expensive for the consumer. This Forbes article states that it will actually hurt low wage workers because businesses will have to reduce their staff in order to afford the new wage. There are even some minimum wage earners who are against raising the minimum wage. In this letter, Tom Douglas gives a very clear indication of how an across-the-board minimum wage increase could affect the restaurant industry. And he does a good job convincing me that a very studied and careful approach is needed. A lot of the debate is focused on the restaurant industry and tipped employees. And they almost convinced me that this large of an increase is not a good idea. However, we can talk about the tipped workers and the cost increase to consumers as much as we want, but I think that’s missing the point. While it’s true that some tipped professionals do really well and are fortunate to work for restaurants like the ones Tom Douglas owns, others are not so lucky. They work a food service job where tips are hard to come by. Or they clean hotels, or work in hospitals, or nursing homes. It’s for those workers that this increase is important. We still live in an expensive city with an incredibly high cost of living. If a $15 minimum wage can alleviate some struggle. I’m all for it. What about you? How do you feel about the $15 minimum wage ordinance? Will it have a positive or negative impact on your life? #15 #affordablehousing #livablewage #livingwage #minimumwage

  • 2014 Summer Newsletter

    In This Issue: The Faces of Bellwether: Steve & Sandy Bury Closer to Home Breakfast Sarah Lewontin Recognized Vaughn McLeod Retires A Generous Gift Update from Sarah Read the 2014 Summer Newsletter #residentstory #ClosertoHome #SarahLewontin #VaughnMcLeod #HomeStreetBank #DavisWrightTremaine

  • 2013 Annual Report

    Our 2013 Annual Report is now available. #annualreport

  • 501 Commons and Bellwether’s Emergency Preparedness Plan Recognized

    America’s Service Commissions (ASC) and Innovations in Civic Participation (ICP) have recognized the joint efforts of 501 Commons and Bellwether Housing. During 2013, both organizations worked to create emergency preparedness plans for three of Bellwether Housing’s apartments: Security House, Kingway Apartments, and Tate Mason Apartments. Consultants with Volunteer Generation Fund (VGF) acted as liaison to ensure that the project was completed. Teams of 501 Commons’ VGF Service Corps members (1) assessed current emergency procedures at each building (2) collaborated with Bellwether staff to create improved guidelines unique to each apartment building, and (3) trained staff and residents about how to implement the plan. The third edition of the publication Transforming Communities through Service: A Collection of the Most Innovative and Impactful National Service Programs in the United States includes programs that have a lasting impact on the community. In addition, the program must be innovative (for example, cross-program connections, programs that can be nationally replicated). Bellwether’s emergency guidelines project met both qualifications. “Our property management staff is excited to share this program among all of our properties. And we're equally pleased that other nonprofit housing organizations across the nation will benefit”, said Sue Selman, Bellwether Housing’s Director of Property Management. The program will be highlighted in 2014 Innovations in Civic Participation & America’s Service Commissions Innovative & Impactful Programs publication. The expected release date is early 2014. Here is a sample of Bellwether Housing’s Resident Quick Reference Handout. #emergencypreparedness #recognition #residentservices

  • Common Ground and Bellwether are Now One Organization

    Merger Announced: Bellwether Housing Brings on Board the Expertise of Common Ground. Merger Sustains 33-Year History in Which the Two Nonprofits Developed Over 11,000 Affordable Homes in Washington State. Bellwether Housing announced a historic merger with Common Ground, taking effect today, October 1st. The merger allows two of the premier local affordable housing champions to continue to address critical housing needs of low-income people in a sustainable fashion despite challenging economic times. In total, the groups estimate that they have developed more than 11,000 affordable homes over their shared history, in Seattle, King County and diverse communities throughout Washington State. At Bellwether Housing’s annual fundraising breakfast at Benaroya Hall last week, Bellwether Housing Executive Director Sarah Rick Lewontin explained, “Bellwether Housing is joining forces with Common Ground to form one - stronger - nonprofit development consulting services organization. By expanding our capacity, we can provide better service to area nonprofits and better meet the growing affordable housing needs of the community.” Common Ground Executive Director Scott Schaffer added, “Our two organizations have a shared 33-year history, and we are thrilled by the opportunity to merge forces with Bellwether to provide even stronger service to our region.” Six Common Ground staff members will join Bellwether Housing, for a combined staff of about 90. Their work will benefit individuals and families who might otherwise face homelessness or make hard choices when all of their paycheck goes to rent, from youth to seniors, mentally ill, domestic violence victims, Indian tribes and others trying to make ends meet with wages that barely cover housing expenses. The combined organization will continue to work with other nonprofits that provide social services but need expert help to provide affordable housing solutions to address their clients’ basic need for shelter. The organizations’ combined strengths and unique perspectives will offer clients exceptional service in three main categories that result in high-quality, sustainable housing to people in need. Joint project development includes mixed-use projects that combine nonprofit or commercial uses with affordable housing, projects requiring experienced co-ownership during a period of organizational capacity-building, as well as larger mixed-income housing projects. Development services include real estate and land use analysis, financial analysis, project funding identification and applications, identifying and negotiating with project lenders and investors, managing project permitting, design and financing, and overseeing construction. Finally, asset management and optimization services include financial sustainability analysis, capital needs assessments, financial repositioning of assets, tax credit partnership exit strategies and negotiations, energy audits, and financing and implementing “green” retrofits. #affordablehousing #CommonGround #merger

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