Seattle Foundation’s COVID-19 Response Fund

The Seattle Foundation’s COVID-19 Response Fund deployed $10+ million in grants to 128 community-based organizations who are delivering emergency assistance—such as rent support, food security, healthcare, and childcare—to workers and families who have been affected first and hardest by the coronavirus crisis. Asian Counseling and Referral Services, Byrd Barr Place, Casa Latina, Chief Seattle Club, Eastside Refugee & Immigrant Coalition, Seattle Indian Health Board, and White Center CDA are just a few of the local organizations receiving funds to bolster front-line responses to the pandemic.

As a member of the Pandemic Community Advisory Group, HDC continues to elevate the essential work of our members and allies for funding consideration. Among the grantees are the following HDC members. We want to take a moment to acknowledge their hard work and dedication to assisting others in this difficult time:


Byrd Barr Place

Chief Seattle Club


Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle


El Centro de La Raza

Interim CDA




Catholic Community Services


Multi-Service Center

Neighborhood house

The Sophia Way

Wellspring Family Services

Plymouth Housing



Solid Ground



View the full list of grantees. 

HDC Member Highlight: Valerie Thiel – SAGE Architectural Alliance

Valerie Thiel is an architect, advocate, innovator, and leader in the affordable housing sector. She is the founding principal of SAGE Architectural Alliance, which specializes in design for seniors, veterans, under-served populations, multifamily residences, and affordable housing for all populations. SAGE’s mission is to shape spaces for social connection and wellness.

Valerie’s dual background in architecture and structural engineering, has been her secret weapon during her 30+ years of architectural experience, 20 of which has been focused on senior and special needs housing. In an industry that is otherwise disproportionately controlled by men, Valerie’s leadership in cutting-edge innovations for senior lifestyles and passionate advocacy for affordable senior housing reflects her unwavering commitment to social and technological change. Her inclusive leadership and advocacy efforts reflect her desire to pave the way for cultural change for future generations.

Valerie remembers thinking about her life path at age eight and realizing that the careers expected for women would not make a significant impact on the world. At least not directly. She saw the roles for women at the time to be limited and supportive, compared to men’s careers and roles to truly impact the world around them, especially as leaders. Valerie remembers being very outspoken about the limited opportunities available to women. She recalls, “I think that was the beginning of wanting the world to change.”

Growing up in Bellingham, Washington, she fell in love with architecture at age 16 when visiting Western Washington University’s campus. She noticed the ways the building structure inconspicuously drew the community together. She was eager to become an architect as she entered her undergraduate career at the University of Washington. As the only woman in her Civil Engineering program, she felt she had to prove herself and proceeded to graduate at the top of her class in only three years. She continued on to Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for her Masters in Architecture and a separate Masters in Structural Engineering.

After graduating MIT, one of her first jobs was at the Museum of Flight hanging a B-17 plane from the ceiling truss. In doing so, she detailed all the exterior glass and steel joints. At that point, she says it was nearly impossible for a woman to have a voice within a design firm. She saw a need for women to prove they were technically competent and were able leaders that could fill the need for more compassionate leadership. She expressed her frustration with the work dynamics and general sexism of the all-male firms. This lack of voice fueled her passion for grassroots organizing and community engagement within her practices.

In 1985, she became an activist with the Seattle Allied Arts and fought a freeway branch that was proposed to run east-west over South Lake Union. At the time, South Lake Union was mostly occupied by car dealerships, but the proposed overpass’ proximity to the water would have had detrimental effects on marine life and water pollution. Having her own idea for the Westlake Commons area, Valerie created a rendering of the area, which envisioned the central park surrounded by mixed-use extending from South Lake Union to Denny Way. Folks rallied behind Valerie’s innovative vision and she proceeded to meet with countless elected officials and government agencies to put this idea into fruition. In the subsequent years, Valerie moved abroad and her original idea transformed even more, but was unable to get the funding approval from voters.

After traveling around the world and working in New York, Valerie settled in Guam, which furthered her passion of helping marginalized communities through architecture. Her main 7-year effort was to help the only hospital in Guam reach accreditation standards. In doing so, she had a significant impact on improving the quality of healthcare and healthcare delivery. While raising her twin sons as a single parent, she also became the architect for a long-term care facility. In doing so, she found an unmet need in the quality of care for the elderly. Her experience in Guam completely reworked her vision for helping others. Not only was Guam a predominately matriarchal society, but it was a collaborative work environment where residents, staff, developers, etc. all had a seat at the table. End of life care became a primary focus for her work moving forward.

Returning to Seattle, Valerie found her voice as a leading expert in senior housing, and the very active non-profit organization, Leading Age. As a frequent speaker at state and national conferences, Valerie emphasizes the importance of social connection and community while providing end of life care. She remembers her own grandparent’s nursing homes as unwelcoming and dingy. She wanted to make a change for her mother’s generation by creating social connection through a warm, welcoming, and attractive environment that is a source of pride for the senior residents.

In 2011, Valerie brought these ideas to HDC membership as the co-chair of the Senior Housing Affinity Group. At the time, Valerie was a strong advocate for providing supportive services within the independent living section of senior housing as the means to best keep residents in their homes as they aged. At the time, this idea was relatively new for the many in the affordable housing sector. Over the last ten years, understanding has shifted, and the affordable housing sector now accepts that putting seniors in touch with these services is fundamental. As this progress has been made, Valerie has turned her energies towards anti-displacement work.

With more women and girls entering the building industry, we are seeing an increasing number of developer teams headed by women. As Valerie says, “Women developers are bringing innovation to affordable housing. I hope when developers choose their architects and contractors that they will begin to use more women-owned architectural firms for the richness of perspectives and innovation that can be gained. I would love to see the affordable housing sector include more women and minority-owned firms at the leadership table. I believe doing so would produce a double bottom line of new affordable housing plus broader leadership distribution and innovation across the communities served. “

Valerie is clear that the growth in the leadership of the affordable housing industry should include gender, racial and all diversities. As HDC grows as an association, Valerie hopes to lead in welcoming and actively recruiting new voices and backgrounds to the sector. She emphasizes that this will require a culture change, since the challenge is “about growing up in a world headed by white men and transitioning to a world headed by diverse leadership where all groups have a true voice.”

Thank you for all you do, Valerie!

Special Message from HDC’s ED on 3/25

March 25, 2020

Here we are: the day we’d planned to come together in the Convention Center skybridge to reconnect, recharge, and celebrate a year of dedication and progress on behalf of affordable housing and homelessness.

If you’re reading this message, you likely already know at least a bit about HDC’s work, and how it helps your own. The HDC staff and board are determined to persevere during this difficult time, for the sake of everyone struggling on the periphery and for our members who serve them. Gathering over 1,300 strong once a year at HDC’s Annual Celebration has given our entire sector a way to come together to honor them all.

This year, you would also have joined together to thank Mark Santos Johnson of the City of Renton, this year’s recipient of HDC’s Carla Okigwe Award, and all of our 2020 Celebration award winners who deserve our sincere appreciation and recognition.

Our Celebration program also featured three staff members of HDC member organizations: Dennis Bateman of Catholic Community Services, Vanessa Tran of Kantor Taylor, and Marwa Zahid of Walsh Construction. They planned to share the rich stories of how they each ended up doing what they do and why being part of this movement still lights a fire in their hearts.

These three folks shrug off the ‘inspirational’ label, insisting they’re quite typical of everyone they work with. And that’s the power of our event—it holds up a mirror to reflect the compassion, wisdom, tenacity, and sense of calling shared by everyone in the room.

We miss experiencing this truly special event with you. I realize a series of emails can never recreate its unique joy. But email does offer me a way to ask you simply and straightforwardly—and in recognition of all you face right now—to make a donation to support HDC.

Please know that HDC stewards every dollar of a modest budget with great care. Whatever you can offer will help this small but mighty team continue to serve you, and to do so in the way only HDC can.

For those of you who have already contributed – you have our sincerest thanks.

You know us and we know you. We are a community that will continue to celebrate our work and each other, and we’ll rise above all we are facing…together.



Annual Celebration Award Winners!

In celebration of our members’ efforts toward increased, sustainable, and healthier affordable housing options, and in celebration of our collective work, we annually recognize those organizations and/or individuals who have been outstanding champions of HDC’s mission and have made an important impact in the community and affordable housing sector. The following awards were given out in 2020:

The Municipal Champion Award recognizes an elected or appointed public official or city/county department/entity, which through exemplary leadership has made exceptional contributions to the state of affordable housing in our community.

  • The City of Burien

    The City is being recognized for working collaboratively with community leaders to adopt an affordable housing demonstration program, a suite of policies, and an inspection program to ensure healthy housing in their city. The new demonstration program creates an opportunity for the city to provide incentives and flexibility for the development of affordable housing over the next three years. Burien intends to use this as an opportunity to evaluate potential barriers to the construction of affordable housing and make recommendations on changes to development regulations.

  • The City of Kenmore

    The City is being recognized fo adopting zoning to preserve manufactured housing communities last year, as well as for their work on Multi-Family Tax Exemption, and the mayor’s leadership co-chairing the Regional Affordable Housing Task Force. The city’s efforts represent a major concerted effort to preserve some of the most affordable housing left in the county.

Board of Directors Award recognizes exemplary leadership in the affordable housing sector, and is given at the sole discretion of HDC’s Board of Directors.

  • Jill Fleming, Senior VP and Deputy Director, Capitol Hill Housing

    Jill has worked in the field of affordable housing development for over three decades first as a CPA with Loveridge Hunt, then for Capitol Hill Housing, currently as Senior Vice President and Deputy Director of this 44-year old organization. She has become a community leader as well as a nationally regarded practitioner. Her deep knowledge of the complicated financing and compliance regulations within the Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program, HUD, City, County, and State financing sources has made her a sought after expert in our wonky, complicated field. Jill has worked to create strong organizations throughout Washington State. She has a proven track record of taking on challenging projects, improving the finances of organizations, and making an impact beyond her organization. Initially the Director of Finance, Jill has been instrumental in the growth and stability of Capitol Hill Housing. Helping the ongoing transformation of a grassroots organization into a nationally recognized real estate developer, owner and operator. Jill is the treasurer of HDC, has served on the boards of the Affordable Housing Management Association of Washington, the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce and the Mt. Baker Housing Association. She holds an MBA from the University of Washington and a BA from The Evergreen State College. HDC is thrilled to be recognizing Jill for her long-time service in the affordable housing sector and for the legacy she leaves in affordable housing finance.

  • Bill Rumpf, President, Mercy Housing NW

    Bill has over 25 years of experience in affordable housing development, operations, and homeless systems and policy. He oversees development, resident services and resource development for Mercy Housing Northwest. Bill’s senior leadership experience includes public and nonprofit housing roles where he has had a leadership role in connecting healthcare and housing. Bill serves on the state’s Health Innovation Leadership Network, which provides guidance to the state’s Healthier Washington plan. He is also a member of the Enterprise Community Leadership Council and Chase Community Advisory Board for Washington, and was recently appointed to the Community Advisory Board of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. Prior to joining MHNW, Bill was the Deputy Director for the Seattle Office of Housing, serving in an executive management role for Seattle’s affordable housing finance agency with an annual budget of $43 million with cumulative transactions in excess of $500 million. HDC is thrilled to recognize Bill for his years of exemplary leadership and service to the affordable housing sector and the community beyond!

The Carla Okigwe Award honors of the vision and leadership of HDC founding Executive Director, Carla Okigwe. Individual recipients are chosen for their exemplary contributions to the affordable housing movement and a clear commitment to bettering the lives of those struggling and the communities in which they live.

Mark Santos-Johnson, Community Development & Housing Manager, City of Renton

Mark Santos-Johnson has been working tirelessly in the housing industry for decades – from working to build a shelter program with Fremont Public Association, to supporting the construction of thousands of homes, to spending the last twenty years dedicated to developing affordable and livable communities in Renton.

While with the City of Renton, Mark spearheaded the revitalization of the Sunset neighborhood. He worked to complete and submit two requests for HUD Choice Neighborhood grants to support community revitalization. When the project did not receive funding, Mark worked to identify additional resources, notably recruiting AmeriCorps VISTA to support the neighborhood development, so that community improvements would continue to be made. To date over $100 million has been invested in the Sunset neighborhood. Most of these directed resources can be attributed, at least tangentially, to Mark’s work. He is a tireless advocate for the community and works to hold the City accountable to its promises.

Mark often flies under the radar, and deserves to be recognized for his years of service to the sector.

Watch HDC present Mark with the 2020 Carla Okigwe Award

TY to the YWCA

Thank you to our member, YWCA of Seattle, King, Snohomish. In benefitting from the Federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program, YWCA has extended its support to HDC in the effort of ensuring that women and families from across the region have safe, healthy, and affordable homes.

YWCA project, Opportunity Place, is unique to the qualifying developments in that it already serves hundreds of folks in the downtown area. The YWCA’s Opportunity Place opened in 2003 and offers a variety of programs that include Health Access and Economic Empowerment. Programs include Veterans Employment, WorkFirst for TANF Parents, Healthcare Access, Title V Employment, and permanent affordable housing among many others.

YWCA Opportunity Place provides comprehensive solutions to the issues of homelessness and poverty. Angeline’s Day Center for Women, a day shelter for women experiencing homelessness is located on site. Located on the second floor, the WorkSource center offers computer access, classes and training, and case management designed to help homeless individuals improve their chances for employment. The top five floors include 145 studio and 1-bedroom apartments. The modern, comfortable units include fully equipped kitchens, private bathrooms and windows, most with exterior views.

Thank you, YWCA, for continuing to give back to the greater housing sector.

HDC Member Highlight: Byrd Barr Place

The ever-changing Seattle is in the midst of an economic boom and rapid growth, but has concurrently created mass displacement due in large part to job growth, high capacity transit, and the resulting skyrocketed cost of living. In the Central District, the changing demographics are pushing out Black households that have lived in the area for generations. The rapidly gentrifying Seattle neighborhood is now home to less than 18 percent of Black residents. In the 1970s, more than 73 percent of the Central District’s residents were Black.

But there is one organization with roots so deep in the neighborhood that it is preserving the Black culture and community from within.

Byrd Barr Place, located in the heart of the Central District, is a true community-based organization aimed at preserving the community through advocacy and social assistance services. Born during the Civil Rights Movement, Byrd Barr Place is over 56 years-old, and upholds itself as a historically Black organization. The organization got its beginnings as a result of redlining in the Central District, acting as a social service hub for the community. Their vision of social equity began to grow more partnerships and expand services. Its mission was to address issues of race, class, and poverty so prevalent in the 1960s, and that mission and value remains today.

What Byrd Barr Place is today to the Central District community is an offshoot of what they have been since the Civil Rights Era: basic safety-net services. Take the Byrd Barr Place food bank, which has expanded its walk-in food bank and created grocery drop-off services. In doing so, they provide nutritious food to working people with limited income right to their doorstep.

While Byrd Barr Place is not a houser, it works to keep people housed. They provide eviction prevention to pay resident’s back-rents. At the same time, Byrd Barr Place works with partner organizations who are housers, case managers, and wrap-around services providers, like Urban League, to ensure people stay in their homes. Their flagship Energy and Heating Assistance Programs can help eligible households keep their lights and heat on during the winter months. These programs help pay for electricity bills and heating tank refills to support healthy housing in their community.

In collaboration with fellow HDC member, Capitol Hill Housing, Byrd Barr Place was a pivotal partner in the national award-winning Liberty Bank Building. The building includes 115 units of affordable housing for households earning between 30 and 60 percent of area median income. The multi-use space will predominantly serve the Black community, 87 percent of the building units are leased by Black households. The commercial space will host Black-owned businesses. The partnership with Liberty Bank is grounded in racial justice as the historic bank was the first Black-owned bank West of the Mississippi. As Executive Director Andrea Caupain Sanderson explains, “The Liberty Bank Project is just one example of a number of properties that stake our claim to Black presence and culture in the city.”

Andrea continued to explain that civic engagement right now means combatting displacement through housing and economic stability. There can be a cynicism that comes with working in social services because there is always more need than resources. At times, advocating for issues with stakeholders isn’t fruitful. But that isn’t what Andrea sees every day. Byrd Barr Place’s proximity and presence in the Central District inspires plenty to be hopeful for. She sees humanism, working together as a community. She witnesses people drop off bags of groceries to the food bank on their way home from the store. She sees people that have used their food bank come back and volunteer their time. She sees lasting reciprocal partnerships – with residents, organizations, and businesses.

Looking forward, Byrd Barr Place is continuing to underscore its mission in supporting healthy homes, with their report Equitable Future in Washington State: Black Well-Being & Beyond. The report examines racism and inequity that have deeply impacted our state’s Black families and community, and encourages collaborative solutions. Created through partnerships with the Washington Commission on African American Affairs and the African American Leadership Forum, the report assesses the barriers to success in Washington’s Black community, especially access and quality of education, housing, employment, and healthcare.

Along with the report, Byrd Barr Place’s food bank is looking into ways to provide more fresh produce and less preserved/processed food, and even health-specific bags for chronic illnesses. In doing so, they are working with local farmers and grocers to obtain these expensive products that low-income residents may not have access to.

This year, Byrd Barr Place is also looking forward to the launch of a capital campaign to help modernize their 112 year-old building. Currently, the organization is negotiating the transfer ownership of its building from the city by mid-summer. While the building has a warm and welcoming interior, space will need a major upgrade to become ADA compliant and ensure it is earthquake safe. With an organization so grounded in place and belonging, they are excited to use this opportunity to expand their meeting spaces, which are open to all residents to use as a place to gather.

Andrea admits, like any other organization, there are bumps in the road but there is a lot of gratitude and kindness that grounds her work and Byrd Barr Place. As an organization, their presence in Seattle is as undeniable as their focus in creating a sense of belonging where Black people find a safe place to live, worship, learn, and play in the Central District.


Thank you, Compass Housing Alliance!

We appreciate the generosity of our member, Compass Housing Alliance! In the Lutheran tradition of caring through service, Compass Housing Alliance develops and provides essential services and affordable housing for homeless and low-income people in the greater Puget Sound region.

Their upcoming development, Compass Broadview, will bring Compass’s unique, personal housing model to the Broadview neighborhood. Compass Broadview will provide 59 units of mixed-use permanent affordable housing on Greenwood Avenue North. Like their other projects, this development will house individuals, families, and people with disabilities earning 50% and 30% Annual Median Income. In addition, 29 units are designated for individuals or families earning at or below 30% AMI.

Built on land purchased from Luther Memorial Lutheran Church, Compass Broadview will be a welcoming home to many families. As with our other affordable housing programs, Compass Broadview will welcome families and individuals across a wide range of ages and backgrounds. Thank you for supporting HDC along with this effort!

Exemplary Building Program Wall Guidelines Are Now Available

In October of 2019, the Exemplary Building Task Force met with stakeholders in the design and construction community in a workshop to develop several simple and cost-efficient common wall assembly designs that would work well in our region, while meeting the performance requirements of the Exemplary Building Program. From this meeting, we have developed some brief Design Guidelines for these wall assemblies to assist with early design and pricing efforts for Exemplary Buildings and have made them available for use by all.

The guidelines can be found on HDC’s Exemplary Building Program website.

As it turns out – these walls are not too different from current construction practice, and only a small step further than the requirements of the forthcoming 2018 Washington State Energy Code. This is a good indicator that the changes needed to construct Exemplary Buildings are realistic and incremental.

Shout-out to SHAG!

A major thank you to our member, Sustainable Housing for Ageless Generations! Also known as SHAG, this non-profit formed nearly three decades ago in order to provide a sustainable lifestyle for seniors. SHAG builds stable housing and creates communities.

Their most recent development plans include Legacy Plaza, which intends on being a mixed-use building, offering 166 units of independent-living apartments for retired seniors, designed to suit various income levels above commercial space and a subterranean parking garage. Residents of the one- and two-bedroom apartments will enjoy residential amenities, such as full kitchens tricked out with dishwashers, oven ranges, refrigerators and washer dryer hookups, full bathrooms, and for select units, roll-in showers. Common spaces are to include social rooms, a library business center, a media room, a fitness center, and a lobby.

Legacy Plaza is granted through the Federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program. As a part of the financing, SHAG had the opportunity to donate to a nonprofit and selected HDC. By donating to our work, SHAG recognized HDC as a systems change organization working through advocacy, education, and leadership to ensure a landscape where affordable housing development is a priority, especially for senior living needs. Legacy Plaza will be a community that exemplifies SHAG and HDC’s shared vision for a King County where everyone lives with dignity in safe, healthy, and affordable homes.

12th Annual HDC Celebration Award Nomination

In celebration of our members’ efforts toward increased, sustainable, and healthier affordable housing options, we will convene HDC membership, local and state elected officials, supporters, and friends for the 12th Annual HDC Celebration on March 25.

In addition to celebrating our collective work, we like to recognize those organizations and/or individuals who have been outstanding champions of HDC’s mission and have made an important impact in the community and affordable housing sector.

In the coming weeks, HDC will convene an award committee to review nominations and recommend awardees to our Board of Directors. This year, we are asking our membership for nominations of individuals, organizations, or public/government agencies, for the following awards:

The Carla Okigwe Award: In honor of the vision and leadership of HDC founding Executive Director, Carla Okigwe, a special award is occasionally given. Individual recipients are chosen for their exemplary contributions to the affordable housing movement and a clear commitment to bettering the lives of those struggling and the communities in which they live.

The Municipal Champion Award: This award recognizes an elected or appointed public official or city/county department/entity, which through exemplary leadership has made exceptional contributions to the state of affordable housing in our community.

Please fill out the nomination form, including information on your nominee, to the best of your ability.

Nominations are due February 7, 2020