Climate Solutions

Community Opportunity: How to Impact the Seattle Housing Market

"The current fight over how we should pay for affordable housing, and who will fund it, is beating on the wrong drum."

Social and environmental impact investing and businesses continue to capture the interest and imagination of the Pacific Northwest, part of a broader global trend. Local early adopters affiliated with Element 8Impact HUB SeattleSeattle ImpactMission Investors Exchange and other institutions and individuals have forged impact investment paths that many others now find themselves traveling. It’s exciting to see the local impact investing ecosystem and communities flourish. However, a market imbalance persists with more impact investor dollars available than the limited number of qualified investment opportunities can absorb. Fortunately we’re seeing signs that the supply of impact investment opportunities is starting to catch up with demand from impact investors.

Green Canopy is an example of an impact-investor funded company that has been fueled by local early adopters. The company operates in a commodity industry: designing and building single family homes. However, we have been fortunate to attract thoughtful, impact-motivated equity and debt investors, due in large part to our mission, vision and values focused on achieving long term positive environmental and social change while simultaneously pursuing solid financial results.

Since 2011 Green Canopy has acquired nearly 90 projects; steadily building a community of homeowners, real estate agents, employees, shareholders and fund members that share our passion to inspire resource efficiency in residential markets. Importantly, we pursue our mission while being uncompromising in achieving key sustainability metrics, paying our employees a fair wage, selling our homes at fair market prices and generating long term shareholder value. Green Canopy has an opportunity to demonstrate it is not only possible, but highly rewarding for all involved to create and operate under a business model predicated on shared, blended value creation.

Similar opportunities are emerging across a wide spectrum of investment strategies that seek to satisfy growing consumer and investment demand for highly impactful market-driven solutions. As Seattle continues to attract tens of thousands of employees each year to fill quality jobs at companies like Amazon, Nordstom and Microsoft, our entire region feels the benefits. And yet, we are all faced with the unintended consequences of the additional infrastructure needed to support increased demand for critical services, including affordable workforce housing. The current fight between the City and the Coalition for Sustainable Jobs and Housing over how we should pay for affordable housing, and who will fund it, is beating on the wrong drum. Neither side seems to be asking the right questions or putting forth a broadly acceptable or effective solution for quickly increasing the supply of affordable workforce housing. 

One example of an alternative solution is Bellwether Housing’s recently launched Seattle Futures Fund. Bellwether has successfully developed and managed affordable workforce housing in Central Seattle for 35 years. However, as affordable housing has become an increasingly rare commodity in the communities Bellwether serves, the organization has had to innovate how its projects are financed; necessity = the mother of innovation. Through the Seattle Futures Fund, Bellwether believes it will more rapidly scale the number of units available to house social workers, teachers, baristas, police officers, firefighters, government workers, data center workers and others that serve our communities. A potentially wonderful, local example that attracts private capital as part of the solution to develop housing that is affordable and accessible to our urban working families.

As a community, we must collaboratively develop innovative, smart, market-driven solutions to problems that impact a wide range of constituents. Hopefully, a greater supply of viable impact investment opportunities for investors to assess, like Bellwether’s Seattle Futures Fund, will be forthcoming in the near-term. In the meantime, we would encourage investors and entrepreneurs alike to continue viewing our social and environmental problems through the lens of impact opportunity.


Contributed by Kyle Mylius, Board of Directors for Green Canopy, Inc. & Aaron Fairchild, CEO of Green Canopy, Inc.

Green Canopy & Climate Solutions Host the First Empower Happy Hour

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The inaugural Empower Happy Hour  this past Wednesday was an amazing success . Thank you for coming and helping to advance the discussion! And a special thanks to our co-host, Climate Solutions, for providing such a compelling topic to anchor the event! We had maybe 100 people attend and I spoke with several folks that were very appreciative for the opportunity to come together around the topic of the evening. We will certainly do this again.

Many conversations were held addressing the question, "How can clean energy gain broad support as an engine of shared prosperity and sustainable economic opportunity?" Many conversations spun out from this question to tackle neighboring themes. Here are some responses I heard from the evening:

“Democratizing capital to allow the non-wealthy to invest in clean tech companies and solutions."

“ Tie social welfare programatic funding to clean tech incentives or taxes or messages, etc. Create a ‘What's in it for me’ by connecting government programs to help the poor to our clean tech solutions of the future. "This program partially paid for by wind power wind falls..." you get the idea.

“ Educate, educate, educate... and start educating our children about our environmental challenges at the earliest ages possible."

“ Demonstrate through stories how the clean energy economy helps builds the middle class, and offers family-wage jobs and more sustainable livelihoods than those tied to fossil fuels."

“ Share and explore solution stories from oversees in the developing world that can inspire similar approaches here in the United States."

Green Canopy has a special mission to inspire resource efficiency in residential markets, and it certainly is an inspiration to us to see a crowd come together to advance the discussion around topics that align with our mission. Thanks again to everyone for coming – and please join the conversation on Facebook #EmpowerHappyHour.