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If you’re like me, the arrival of August means enjoying those last few dips in the pool, eating those last bites of summer fruits before they go out of season, and preparing your kids to go back to school. For many, the back-to-school preparation is as routine as the school day itself; backpacks are filled with new pencils and notebooks, fall schedules are posted on the fridge and lunch bags standby waiting to be filled with nutritious foods to fuel minds at work. Unfortunately for some, the reality of obtaining those nutritious foods can become a daunting task. There are over 150,000 families in King County alone receiving basic food benefits. These benefits enable low-income families to make ends meet by providing monthly benefits to buy food. A family of four with a monthly gross income of less than $3,700 per month could receive a monthly benefit of approximately $115 a month – that’s about $4.10 a day! For the entire family!

You may be asking yourself, how can you live on just $4 a day for food? Thanks to the free and reduced priced lunch program at Seattle Public Schools, children whose families meet those income guidelines are allowed to eat breakfast and lunch at school at little to no cost. You can find out more about that program here.

“So what about dinner?” you ask. Enter Leanne Brown, author of Good & Cheap, a cookbook designed for families on a strict food stamp budget with a desire to feed their families healthful and tasty food. Leanne has released the 2nd edition of her cookbook full of beautiful and inexpensive recipes that even the most basic chef can master. The books can be downloaded for free by visiting Leanne’s website. However, it’s important to note that for each copy purchased, a copy is donated to an individual and/or family in need. So buy, buy, buy! If you’re not convinced, just take a look at what our friends over at NPR had to say in this article.

So you’ve got your cookbook and that gleam in your eye, but where, oh where are you supposed to find the ingredients?! Only the freshest, locally grown foods for you, my friends! The end of summer also marks the beginning of Farmers Market season in Washington. Local farmers understand the importance of developing healthy communities and a sustainable local food system, so they work hard each year to bring their organic fare to the residents of this state. To find the Farmers Market in your community, take a look at this state listing. Families who currently receive federal food benefits can shop at their local farmers markets using their SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits thanks to the program Fresh Bucks. Not only does the Fresh Bucks program allow families to use their EBT (Electronic Benefits Transfer) cards to buy food, every dollar spent is matched by the market up to $10 per day, per market, per cardholder! Using Good & Cheap recipes, one trip to the market could feed a family for a whole week! So while we will soon have to say goodbye to warm, sunny days, dips in the pool and summer fruits, it gives me great comfort to know that the families in my community will be able to enjoy healthful, flavorful meals all year long, and kids throughout the state can go to school happy, healthy and ready to learn! Here’s to a great school year, happy eating!

farmers-market

 

500 low-income seniors call four of Bellwethers’ thirty properties home. Although self-sufficient and independent, our senior residents have on-site access to social services and referrals through our Resident Services Program when needed. Resident Services Coordinators play a unique role in our senior buildings. They are an important link to social services and resources that residents might require – but cannot access – on their own. Read on to learn about one such resource.

Meet Tony, a 74 year old man living at Meridian Manor; a self-proclaimed writer, musician, singer, and Bachelors of Arts degree holder from the University of the East in Manila, Philippines. Tony immigrated to Seattle, Washington in 1964, after being sponsored by his brother. In 2003 he moved to Meridian Manor. Tony had always dreamt of gaining his citizenship, but could never afford the $680 fee. Last year, Tony’s dreams became a reality. The Resident Services Coordinator at Meridian Manor, saw the need for Citizenship Classes for most of the foreign born residents. She contacted Asian Counseling and Referral Services (ACRS), and arranged for tutoring classes that would educate the residents on the citizenship process, along with US history. Tony attended the first class, and soon found out that the fees associated with the citizenship process would be waved for low-income individuals. He was ecstatic, and started the Citizenship process through ACRS immediately. The application process took four months. He had to submit numerous documents, get his fingerprints taken for a background check, and eventually had his interview. On July 23rd, after spending seven hours at the US Immigrations Office in Tukwila, he became a US Citizen. When asked, Tony says he is most excited to vote, as it is the ultimate voice and power of the people.

 

 

Tony  - Citizenship Pic

 

Doug Daley has been appointed as Bellwether’s next executive director, replacing Sarah Rick Lewontin, who will retire after serving in the role since 2004. He officially joined the Bellwether staff on May 18, 2015, and begins his executive director tenure on June 15.

“The Bellwether team welcomes Doug’s strong background in finance and real estate, his fresh perspective and his commitment to making sure our communities are affordable for everyone, regardless of income,” said Lewontin. “With Doug’s leadership, I’m confident the organization will build on its history of success to meet current and future challenges.”

Daley’s professional experience includes more than ten years at Harbor Properties, including eight years as CEO.  Harbor Properties, now known as Mack Urban, was a locally based full-service real estate company specializing in developing and managing mixed-use multi-family and commercial office buildings. Harbor developed and owned both market-rate and moderate-wage workforce housing properties in its apartment portfolio, located in close-in Seattle neighborhoods and near transit. In addition, under Daley’s leadership, Harbor was recognized for its design standards and its community outreach on all its development projects.

Prior to his time at Harbor, Daley was the chief financial officer at Trammel Crow Residential West Coast Group. Daley also served as the regional manager responsible for commercial real estate lending at Wells Fargo Bank.

“I am excited about this opportunity at a time when there’s a confluence of socially-minded investors who want to make a difference by supporting housing affordability in their community,” said Daley. “I am honored to be a part of this organization.”

Daley has been a member of the Bellwether board since 2010, and served as board chair in 2013 and 2014. Daley’s role as executive director will overlap with soon-to-retire executive director Sarah Lewontin.

 

Doug Daley

Parker

 

It has been an exciting and productive period for all of us who work in Bellwether’s housing development. With this in mind, we are introducing periodic updates to share news about what we are planning, and what we are doing.

The Parker – April showers bring May flowers and 50 units of permanently affordable housing in Seattle’s Queen Anne neighborhood! Bellwether acquired The Parker Apartments in 2013 from Seattle Pacific University, which used the building for married student housing.  Enterprise Community Partners assisted us with a short-term acquisition loan for the property until we could secure the following permanent financing sources:

  • Low income housing tax credit equity provided by National Equity Fund
  • A loan from City of Seattle Housing Levy
  • A loan from Bellwether Housing Opportunity Funds
  • A loan from U.S. Bank

The building houses families and individuals earning 30-60% area median income. The strong lease-up of The Parker (the units were fully leased before the rehabilitation work was completed) is evidence of the high demand for affordable housing in Seattle, not to mention the hard work of Bellwether staff.  The Parker rehabilitation will create a much “greener” building with energy efficient windows, sliding doors, lighting and appliances. Other work included replacing worn unit interior and common area finishes and upgrading landscaping and outdoor space for tenant enjoyment. The opening of The Parker will be celebrated May 21 from 3:30 – 6:00 p.m.  We hear that the Mayor is planning to drop by. Please join us in celebrating our newest 50 units of affordable housing!

 

1511 Dexter

 

1511 Dexter – With new market-rate 1-bedroom units in South Lake Union renting for well over $1,800/month, how can lower wage working people possibly afford to live in the city? Fortunately, Bellwether is in the process of creating 70 units of affordable housing for lower income individuals and small families just north of the booming neighborhood of South Lake Union at 1511 Dexter Avenue North.  The site is located on a key transit route into downtown Seattle and is walkable to job centers in Queen Anne and South Lake Union. The project is in the design development stage with Runberg Architecture Group and we plan to apply for a significant public funding award from the City of Seattle’s Office of Housing this fall. If these funds are awarded, the project can move forward with construction in 2016. These units will be leased to households with incomes ranging from $31,000 – $43,000 and rent for between $800 – 1,000/ month (2015 dollars).

 

U District Apts

 

University District Apartments – Several years ago, University Christian Church decided that it wanted to use its parking lot for a higher purpose – affordable housing! Today, Bellwether is partnering with University Christian Church and Compass Housing Alliance to create 133 units of affordable housing on what is now a parking lot at the corner of 15th Avenue NE and NE 50th in the University District.

This project is exciting for Bellwether for many reasons.  First, it is an opportunity to provide much needed affordable housing in the transit and amenity-rich neighborhood of the University District. The project will be just a few blocks from the new University District light rail station and is on several major bus lines, it is within walking distance of health care facilities, parks, schools, grocery stores and all that the University of Washington campus has to offer. Second, the project will serve a range of household sizes – from individuals to large families; and it will include approximately 40 units set aside for families transitioning from homelessness. Those households will receive the support they need to be successful in permanent housing from the social service staff of Compass Housing Alliance.

Finally, in addition to being one of the largest projects Bellwether has developed, it will be Bellwether’s “greenest” development ever. In 2014, Bellwether received a grant from Enterprise Community Partners to explore building methods and systems that would lead to long-term cost and energy savings in the University District Project. We engaged 360 Analytics, a building systems engineering firm, and Walsh Construction, our general contractor for the project, to help us identify the up-front costs and long-term utility savings of a number of different options for various building systems. Through this analysis, we are planning to incorporate a number of energy-saving systems that will result in significant operating cost savings and energy use reduction over the life of the project.

Combined these developments will increase the number of affordable apartments in Seattle by more than 250. And we’ll continue to look for opportunities to add even more affordable places to live throughout the city. We’re keeping busy!

 

 

 

Good news from Seattle Housing Authority (SHA). Cynthia West (Director, Housing Choice Voucher Program) shared the following information:  

SHA will use a lottery system when it opens a new waitlist this spring. 2,500 households will be randomly selected for a place on this waitlist for the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program.

The Housing Choice Voucher program, also known as “Section 8”, is a federally-funded program that offers rental subsidies to low-income households renting units in the private market. The new waitlist will be created from a lottery system using online-only registration that will be open from March 23, 2015 at 8 a.m. through April 10, 2015 at 5 p.m. (Pacific Standard Time). The last time a waitlist was opened by SHA for the HCV program in Seattle was February 2013.

SHA is offering several informational sessions at our Central Office, 190 Queen Anne Ave N. If you would like to attend an informational session, click here to reserve your spot.

There are several resources for registrants on the site’s waitlist page including a video tutorial showing how to register, and a list of online access points for people who may not have access to the web.

NOTE: The only place to register for the lottery is seattlehousing.org/waitlist ; there is no cost to register. No one should ever pay in exchange for a promise to be placed on a waitlist, and the best and safest way to register is to type ”http://seattlehousing.org/waitlist” directly into a browser (NOT search the internet or click on ads).

SHA Logo

 

I live in a Seattle neighborhood that has seen a major upswing in homelessness. My home is across the street from a park – so it is easy for people to sleep in their cars, feeling somewhat safe as they are on a major street. Many of these people leave every day, go off to work, and then return “home” – to the same spot on the same street. It gives them a little comfort to have a place to return that is at least predictable when so much else in their lives isn’t. 

My mind was on these individuals – as well as all the others unknown to me – during Tuesday’s Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day.

What is Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day? It’s a day, organized by Washington Low Income Housing Alliance, where people gather in Olympia to advocate for safe, affordable homes for all and for ending homelessness. Anyone who is passionate about this may attend – residents, affordable housing staff, those who need an affordable place to live. It’s an opportunity to share stories, promote specific legislation and, in general, send a clear message to our legislators about the urgent need for housing affordability. It’s democracy in action! And it’s a privilege to be able to be part of this process.

Several Bellwether residents attended this year. And all found it rewarding. Each was able to speak before his/her representative about why it is critical to increase the supply of affordable housing. One resident felt very moved by the experience. She asked, “can a studio on Capitol Hill (a Seattle neighborhood) that rents for $1,000 really be considered affordable?” Another resident was so excited to speak for his legislator that he opted to stay late so that he wouldn’t miss the scheduled meeting time. Both stated that they felt they were in the minority as low-income residents as so many in attendance worked in housing. They were able to put a face to the cause and felt validated.

Bellwether staff who attended also felt the powerful impact of the day. As one of our resident managers said, “it was a great opportunity to get exposure to the big picture of the housing crisis and the different stakeholders that are working towards a solution. It was reinvigorating and keeps me motivated to do the work we do.” Another commented, “I think most politicians get so wrapped up in the daily grind that they forget who their decisions make an impact on.” And finally, this comment: “it was great to hear about how various housing programs that are currently in place have enhanced and benefited the lives of so many individuals. It really solidifies the importance of mobilizing legislative support for the Housing Trust Fund so that we can continue to build long term sustainable communities.” So true!

I am already looking forward to 2016’s Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day and hope you too might be motivated to join the movement for affordable housing and an end to homelessness. We all need to do our part so that everyone has a safe, affordable place to call home.

By Julie Lombardo, Bellwether’s Outreach & Communications Manager 

BW staff