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BW + Common Ground

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.

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