Advancing DEI: Windermere’s Continued Commitment to Change


Written by: Samantha Enos – Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Windermere Real Estate


Since our company committed to affecting change with regards to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) nearly two years ago, we’ve established several initiatives that have helped us move the needle toward making Windermere a more diverse organization and homeownership more equitable. Guided by our four DEI pillars—community, home ownership, leadership, and culture—we remain focused on finding paths to address discrimination, racism, and inequity within the real estate industry.

Some of our DEI efforts over the past two years:

  • Hired a VP of DEI who is charged with advancing Windermere’s DEI efforts, as well as supporting Windermere offices with their DEI strategies, planning, and programs
  • Developed a committee of Windermere agents, staff, and owners to discuss Windermere’s efforts and to provide input on the direction of our DEI strategies
  • Conducted ongoing DEI training for the Windermere leadership team, as well as for franchise owners and managers
  • Engaged with state and local REALTOR® associations to audit our developing DEI training and educational opportunities offered to agents through our Professional Development department
  • Produced instructional documents to educate homeowners on the history of racially restrictive language in property deeds and how to strike/remove such language from their chain of title
  • Launched a “Race + Real Estate” playlist on the Windermere Spotify channel that offers a selection of podcasts that explore how members of marginalized communities have historically been denied access to homeownership

Sam Smith “Hi Neighbor” Homeownership Fund

Launched in early 2022 through our partnership with non-profit lender HomeSight, the Sam Smith “Hi Neighbor” Homeownership Fund is designed to help low-to-moderate-income home buyers who have been historically underserved by traditional lenders. Through donations from the Windermere Foundation, U.S. Bank, and JP Morgan Chase, the Sam Smith fund is helping to reduce barriers to homeownership by funding loan products for Black/African American first-time home buyers in Washington State.

We have formed a Board of Directors made up of six agents to help manage the program and drive fundraising. As of May 2022, the Sam Smith fund has raised over $127,000 for first-time home buyers, including a personal donation of $50,000 from the Jacobi family to help seed the fund, with over $58,000 raised this year alone. We are actively seeking partnerships with down payment assistance programs in other states to expand our efforts.

Aspire Internship

Formed in partnership with the University of Washington College of Built Environments in July 2021, the inaugural Aspire Internship program produced eight interns, all of whom completed the program and received a $5,000 scholarship. We’ve already seen real-world impact stemming from Aspire, with one of the group project proposals contributing to the creation of an agent scholarship program (see WIN below), and in the hiring of an Aspire alumnus at a Windermere office in Seattle. The program is expanding in summer 2022, with nearly double the number of students participating.

WIN Scholarship Program 

The WIN Scholarship Program was created after recognizing the need to build and support a diverse community of new agents. The program provides up to $2,500 for qualified new hires to be used for training, educational purposes, and relieving the financial burden of the startup costs involved with becoming a real estate agent. The program has made an impact outside of Windermere, as well. Using the WIN Scholarship as a model, Washington REALTORS® has established a pilot program in which they will sponsor one year of REALTOR® member dues, six months’ worth of MLS fees, and $400 worth of training for qualified BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) agents.

DEI Resources

For more information on our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, updates on our company initiatives, and further resources on the history of housing discrimination and its impact on our communities, visit windermere.com/dei.


Samantha Enos currently serves on the Seattle-King County REALTORS® Board of Directors, is a member of the National Association of REALTORS® Mentorship program, and was recently appointed as the Chairperson of the Seattle-King County REALTORS® DEI committee. She also volunteers on the Juanita High School DEI committee.


 

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Windermere Launches Sam Smith “Hi Neighbor” Homeownership Fund

Windermere Vice President of DEI, Samantha Enos, recently announced our partnership with non-profit Community Development Financial Institution HomeSight on a new loan product to increase purchasing power and help bridge the affordability gap facing Black/African American homebuyers.

The Sam Smith “Hi Neighbor” Homeownership Fund

“The Sam Smith ‘Hi Neighbor’ Homeownership Fund is designed to help low-to-moderate-income home buyers who have historically been underserved by traditional lenders,” said Enos, adding, “Through donations from the Windermere Foundation, U.S. Bank, and JP Morgan Chase, the Sam Smith fund is helping to reduce barriers to homeownership by funding loan products for Black/African American first-time home buyers in Washington State.”

Named after Washington State Legislator Sam Smith, who championed the passing of the state’s Open Housing Law barring discrimination based on race and religion in 1967, our hope is that, together with HomeSight, we can be part of a solution that helps increase Black/African Americans homeownership in the state of Washington.

According to a report by National Association of REALTORS®, Black/African American home buyers are more than twice as likely to be rejected for mortgage loans than white home buyers. Nationwide, only 43% of Black/African Americans can afford to buy a home versus 63% for Whites. In Seattle, the Black/African American homeownership rate is 25.8% compared to 50.9% of White homeowners. While in King County, the median income for Black households is $48,075, about half the median income of White households at $94,533.

Carl Smith, son of Legislator Sam Smith, said “It’s an honor and a pleasure to have the Sam Smith name used to pursue equity in home purchases,” said Mr. Smith, adding, “My grandfather instilled in my father that the way to have freedom is to have land and for people in that era, it was freedom.”

Since launching in November 2021, Windermere has contributed $80,237 to the fund through donations from our agents, offices, and company leadership, including a personal donation of $50,000 from the Jacobi family to help seed the fund. Windermere Co-President, OB Jacobi, said that the goal is for Windermere to raise $250,000 annually. Darryl Smith, Executive Director of HomeSight, adds that the fund has already helped three families realize their dream of homeownership and there are currently four additional families in the process of looking for homes.

HomeSight identifies borrowers that qualify for the Sam Smith fund and grants up to $12,000 to use towards their home purchase costs. The loans can be layered on top of the buyer’s existing mortgage loans or work in conjunction with other HomeSight purchase assistance programs. Sam Smith deferred loans are repayable in thirty years, when the homeowner refinances, or when they sell. Once the loans are paid off, HomeSight resolves the funds, ensuring availability to future borrowers.

For more information on our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, visit windermere.com/dei

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Windermere Partners with UW to Launch Internship Program

The University of Washington College of Built Environments (CBE) announced a new paid internship program, Aspire, that offers financial support, mentoring, and skill-building through academic and professional office settings to students, with a focus on those from historically underrepresented or marginalized groups. In partnership with Windermere Real Estate, this CBE-led internship will begin today, July 13, and will focus on the single and multi-family residential real estate market in the greater Seattle area. 

During the eight-week paid summer internship, the eight interns will work and study for 25 hours per week. They will interact with real estate industry and academic leaders, while learning about the important role homeownership plays in building thriving communities. The program participants will gain skills in financial principles, sales, marketing, intercultural fluency, and leadership. At the end of the internship period, interns will present their work to industry professionals and participate in tours showcasing a range of processes in the home buying sector. 

Students who complete the eight-week Aspire internship will also receive a $5,000 scholarship, funded by Windermere and awarded in Autumn 2021. This scholarship aims to help the next generation of real estate professionals lead and build our communities in inclusive and equitable ways. Windermere has committed to continuing to support this internship through the upcoming academic year and beyond.

Windermere president, OB Jacobi, stated that this partnership is a continuation of the more than three decades long relationship between Windermere and UW, which started with the first Windermere Cup Rowing Regatta in 1987, and has continued through ongoing financial gifts to both athletic and academic programs at the university. 

“After learning about Windermere’s commitment to increasing diversity within the real estate industry, Renee Cheng approached us with an opportunity to partner with the College of Built Environments on the Aspire internship program,” said Jacobi. “Our goal is to inspire interest and engage students of color in the wide variety of careers and leadership opportunities available to them in real estate.”

Renee Cheng, Dean of the College of Built Environments at the University of Washington, highlighted the Aspire program’s real world learning experiences: “It can be difficult for our students to appreciate the historical role of homeownership in building generational wealth, particularly if their own lived experience includes housing insecurity. This program equips students with the context and confidence to engage with the role of home in the built environment.”

Aspire program manager Alexis Wheeler agreed, saying that “in addition to building intergenerational wealth, homeownership cultivated a sense of belonging and stability, encouraging people to grow into the fullest version of themselves and fostering vibrant communities throughout our region. Through the Aspire program, students will also develop an appreciation for this aspect of ‘home’ and its role promoting a more inclusive and equitable society.” 

The Aspire internship specifically sought students from historically underrepresented or marginalized groups and/or those with lived experiences with housing insecurity. With a robust slate of over 40 applicants, the CBE and Windermere were able to select a strong inaugural cohort of Aspire interns, which includes students majoring in Real Estate and Community, Environment, & Planning (CEP), as well as majors beyond the CBE. 

The Aspire Internship will run from July 13-September 1, 2021. This is an ongoing internship opportunity for CBE and other UW students, offered in collaboration with our community partners.

To learn more about our DEI Initiatives like this one, visit Windermere.com/dei.

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Striking Restrictive Racial Language from Your Title

Restrictive racial covenants—which excluded people of color from purchasing, leasing, or occupying homes in certain neighborhoods, developments, or regions—have been deeply embedded in the practices of the housing industry since the early 20th century. Although the Supreme Court ruled that municipally mandated racial zoning was unconstitutional with 1917’s Buchanan v. Warley, this decision extended only to government action such as city ordinances, and not to private agreements such as restrictive covenants.

This left the door open for discrimination in real estate to continue. The Supreme Court’s 1926 ruling in Corrigan v. Buckley validated the use of racially restrictive covenants, and they quickly became common practice. Shortly thereafter, these restrictions were endorsed by federal housing administrators and lenders alike, creating a system that shaped communities and segregated neighborhoods throughout the country.

In 1948, with Shelley v. Kraemer, the United States Supreme Court ruled that these racial deed restrictions were no longer enforceable. But the structures of segregation remained intact and real estate brokers, agents, and property owners continued to discriminate based on race.

Congress struck a blow against these practices by passing the Fair Housing Act in 1968, which prohibited discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, or national origin in the sale or rental of housing. However, the language of restrictive racial covenants is still written in the chain of title for many homeowners nationwide.

 

Striking Restrictive Language By State

As part of our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, Windermere has prepared educational content on how homeowners can remove racially restrictive language from their chain of title. Of the ten states that Windermere operates in, there are processes in place to remove this language in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. Homeowners in Idaho will note that the process to strike restrictive language is subject to change, pending the legislature’s passing of I.C. § 55-616 in 2021. In Hawaii, Montana, and Utah, there is currently no process for the removal of discriminatory covenants from a chain of title, nor is there pending legislation to address the issue. In Hawaii and Utah, although there is legislation in place declaring such covenants void, there is nothing currently in place that permits a court or auditor to strike the restrictive language from the title.

 

To begin the process of striking the restrictive language from your title, talk to your Windermere agent today. For help getting started with an agent, we’re happy to connect you here: Connect With an Agent

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Black History Month

How Black History Month Began

 

In 1915, American historian Carter G. Woodson and minister Jesse E. Moorland founded what is now the Association for the Study of African American Life and History® (ASALH) to recognize and celebrate the accomplishments of African Americans and to encourage studying the history of Black people. In 1926, the ASALH debuted what was then called “Negro History Week” to bring awareness to their mission. The event took place during the second week of February, coinciding with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln (February 12) and Frederick Douglass (February 14). It continued to grow through the decades and in 1969, Black History Month was first proposed by the Black United Students at Kent State University. Years later, in 1976, President Gerald Ford decreed Black History Month be observed nationally. Since then, every President has recognized February as Black History Month (also known as African American History Month).

 

Black History Month 2021

 

Black History Month’s first official theme was “Civilization: A World Achievement” in 1928. Since then, the annual themes reflect changes of social movements’ impact on ideas of race, how the Black community’s aspirations have evolved over time, and how those of African descent living in the United States view themselves. The theme for 2021 is “The Black Family: Representation, Identity, and Diversity.” For more information on this year’s theme, past themes, and more on Black History Month, visit asahl.org.

 

In Real Estate

 

In the real estate industry, methods of redlining and steering have historically prevented members of the Black community from building wealth through home ownership. At Windermere, we are committed to doing our part to address discrimination, racism, and inequity within our company and the real estate industry. There are a number of initiatives in place throughout the industry to support diversity and inclusion, commit to fair housing, and make home ownership fairer and more equitable than it has been in the past. For more information and resources, visit the National Association of REALTORS® Fair Housing and Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion pages.

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