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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