This Fair Housing Month,HomeSight Celebrates
“The Act in Action”

April is Fair Housing Month, and HomeSight programs embody this year’s theme.

Every April, we recognize the anniversary of our country’s Fair Housing Act. Signed into law on April 11, 1968, this federal act prohibited the longstanding practices of discrimination in housing transactions. It protects people from discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, or familial status.

HomeSight’s work is rooted in the tenets of this landmark legislation and brings the FHA’s ideals to work for Washingtonians. This year’s Fair Housing Month theme – The Act in Action – highlights HomeSight’s important work in the community. Here are a few of the programs that show how HomeSight puts the act in action every day.

 U-lex: Affordable Housing Co-op as Anti-Displacement Tool

 With beautiful, modern living conditions set next to the light rail station at Martin Luther King Jr. Way and South Holly Park Drive, HomeSight’s U-lex co-op will offer 68 units affordable to families earning 80 percent or less of the area income at the time of purchase.

“For too many Washington residents, even a so-called ‘starter house’ is too big a leap to get into the real estate market,” said HomeSight Executive Director Darryl Smith. “With a co-op like U-lex, people can start building equity at a much lower price point than you’d find in this housing market. U-lex is creating the first few rungs on the ladder, so people can start the climb to the true financial stability homeowning allows.” 

U-lex is the final building in HomeSight’s Othello Square complex, which now houses the Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic, a community-based health care provider, Verity Credit Union, Salish Sea Elementary School, and Tiny Tots Development, a provider of early childhood education. Fifty percent of U-lex units are reserved for people who have roots in this community.

 “U-lex is an intentional anti-displacement tool,” said Uche Okezie, HomeSight’s Director of Real Estate Development. “Without planned growth through projects such as U-lex, the city risks losing the communities that make Seattle so unique.”

U-lex is spelled “ʔúləx̌” in Lushootseed, the language spoken by the Coast Salish people who originally lived on this land. Pronounced ‘OH-lew,’ ʔúləx̌ means “gather” in the Lushootseed language. To learn more about U-lex, please contact Pearl Nelson or visit the website.

Field Order 15 Fund: Reparative Lending to Help New Black Home Builders — and Homeowners

This year, HomeSight and Black Home Initiative (BHI), launched the Field Order 15 Fund, a reparative lending program for Black home developers that provides upfront grant money, eligibility for low-interest lending, and technical support. The program offers a creative approach to addressing the affordable housing shortage by giving agency to stakeholders that traditionally have not had a seat at the table.

The fund’s name references General William Tecumseh Sherman’s Special Field Order 15, issued at the end of the civil war to re-distribute land to the the newly freed enslaved people, providing each family with “40 acres and a mule.” President Lincoln approved Special Field Order 15, but after his assassination his successor Andrew Johnson rescinded it, returning the land to treasonous former enslavers. Black people never received “40 acres and a mule,” or any restitution for their enslavement. The following ten decades of explicitly racist policies prevented Black people from staking a claim in an economically secure future.

“Field Order 15 Fund aims to fulfill this abandoned equity goal and HomeSight is the perfect home for it,” said Okezie, who manages the project. “As a Community Development Financial Institution, we have homeownership counseling, we do mortgage lending, we offer down payment assistance to income-qualified households, and we also build quality, affordable houses. But we are also a CDC – a Community Development Corporation – and our job there is to promote economic growth in the communities we serve. As a CDFI, a CDC, and a member of the BHI, this project pulls all our expertise, goals and imperatives together in a really unique way.”

Purchase Assistance: Halal Loans, VISTA Loans, and Sam Smith “Hi Neighbor” Fund Offer an Opportunity to Build Generational Wealth

HomeSight’s purchase assistance programs are designed to reach out to communities that were impacted by racism and unfair housing practices. HomeSight can offer first-time homebuyers a VISTA loan, which doesn’t require the borrower to have a social security number. HomeSight’s Halal loan is compliant with Sharia law, for Muslim homebuyers.

HomeSight recently partnered with Windermere Real Estate to create the Sam Smith “Hi Neighbor” Homeownership Fund, a loan product to increase purchasing power and bridge the affordability gap facing Black homebuyers earning between 80-120 percent of Washington state’s median income. The fund allows eligible recipients to borrow up to $20,000 to layer into a mortgage loan to use toward their home’s purchase cost.

This initiative was inspired by legendary Washington state legislator and Seattle City Council President Sam Smith, whose perseverance in passing the state’s version of the Fair Housing Act – the Open Housing Law – in 1967 resulted in a major, hard-won civil rights victory. The fund’s name also gives a nod to Smith’s congenial personality.

“The foundation for generational wealth building in American is rooted in home ownership, and the Fair Housing Act’s passage opened a pathway out of poverty for many Americans,” said Smith. “Fair Housing Month allows us to reflect on how far we’ve come and reminds us how much work remains. The work of HomeSight and its community partners is so important right now because that pathway to prosperity can be long and difficult to navigate. Our job is to light the way.”