Imagine Housing Welcomes Villette Nolon as Executive Director

Please help us welcome Villette Nolon, the new Executive Director of Imagine Housing and Red Vines! 

Villette comes to this role as a former Imagine Housing Board member, and most recently as Interim Executive Director since November 2016. Villette’s high tech career spans Fortune 150 companies as well as startups with roles including CEO, VP Sales & Marketing and VP Strategic Partnerships. She has also been an early stage technology investor since the late 1990s and is very familiar with the social enterprise investing space, a source of capital that Imagine Housing is pursuing. Her non-profit experience includes board positions at PONCHO, Washington Technology Industry Association, and the Global MIT Enterprise Forum. She’s lived in Bellevue for over 20 years with her husband, and now two grown children and five grandchildren.

The selection of Villette as Executive Director came after a nationwide search and rigorous selection process that included participation from the Imagine Housing and Red Vines Boards and staff. The Boards especially appreciated her vision, organizational leadership experience, and energetic approach to the role.

We are very pleased that Villette accepted this position and look forward to continuing to work with her to carry out our mission to develop affordable housing, build welcoming communities, and foster vibrant futures.

Farms for Life

This summer Imagine Housing started an amazing partnership with Farms for Life. Farms for Life is a non-profit that works with local farmers to purchase their excess produce and redistribute it to their community partners. We joined Farms for Life at the end of June and it runs through October 11th. This is their longest season so far!

So far this year we are serving 6 of our 13 properties with the produce we receive from Farms for Life. The response from our residents has been positive at each property, and our residents love the variety of produce they get each week. It is amazing to have conversations with our residents about what Kohlrabi (in the cabbage family) is or a Lemon Cucumber (a sweeter version of a cucumber that you can almost eat like an apple).

Each week, I distribute to Kirkland Plaza. Our residents are waiting outside for me to arrive and come to help me unload my car and set up the produce. I love getting to see their faces when they see the quality and type of produce come through each week. I know that fresh produce for many of our residents is something that can feel out of reach and this is a way to help support them. None of this would be possible without the support we receive each week from Farms for Life. I look forward to the growing season next year and what the future holds for us and our new partnership.

– Amanda Sherry, Resident Services Manager

Visit our Facebook page to see photos from our Farms for Life partnership.

Press Release: Imagine Housing and Red Vines 1 Break Ground on New Affordable Housing for Seniors


Kirkland – On September 9, 2016, Kirkland-based nonprofits Imagine Housing and Red Vines 1 will break ground on a new community in Kirkland.  The nonprofit partners have been building supportive affordable housing in the area for 29 years. Athene, located in the Totem Lake neighborhood next to Imagine Housing’s existing Francis Village, will provide 91 new studio, 1- and 2-bedroom apartments for seniors earning up to 60% of area median income.  Twenty apartments will be reserved for seniors experiencing homelessness.

With construction underway, Athene plans to begin leasing in the spring of 2017.  The sustainably built community will feature attractive and inviting community spaces; free common area wi-fi; and easy access to Eastside shopping, services, and transportation.  On-site supportive services will enhance health, wellness, and community engagement. The new community will help serve the many seniors who, despite living and working in the community for years, can no longer afford Eastside rents.

“I’m on a fixed income – social security,” said one local senior who is in search of affordable housing. “That doesn’t really match a person’s living needs.” She shared that her current rent is nearly 90% of her social security check, due to rising rents that outpace increases in social security payments.

Community members joining Imagine Housing and Red Vines 1 to celebrate Athene’s groundbreaking include King County Executive Dow Constantine, King County Councilmember Claudia Balducci, and Kirkland Mayor Amy Walen; event sponsors JP Morgan Chase Community Investment Banking and Raymond James Tax Credit Funds, Inc.; and Ankrom Moisan Architects and Venture General Contracting LLC.

“We are proud to partner with supporters and experts who share an understanding that building quality, affordable housing strengthens the Eastside and allows all members to thrive,” said Chris Jowell, Executive Director of Imagine Housing and Red Vines 1. “We look forward to opening Athene to provide more of our senior neighbors the opportunity for quality housing in their chosen community.”

Funding for the development of Athene is provided by: JP Morgan Chase Community Investment Banking, Raymond James Tax Credit Funds, Inc., Washington State Department of Commerce, King County, Washington Community Reinvestment Association, Washington State Housing Finance Commission, Impact Capital, and King County Housing Authority. Funding is also provided by the Eastside Housing Trust Fund, administered by A Regional Coalition for Housing with funding from the cities of Bellevue, Clyde Hill, Hunts Point, Issaquah, Kenmore, Kirkland, Medina, Mercer Island, Newcastle, Redmond, Sammamish, Woodinville, and Yarrow Point.

For more information:


Imagine Housing empowers individuals and families, supports diversity and strengthens communities by developing permanent affordable rental housing and providing supportive services.  Since 1987, Imagine Housing has built affordable apartment communities so that, regardless of income, individuals and families in East King County have stable housing and strong support in diverse communities that empower success and foster a high quality of life.  For more information on Imagine Housing and its services, call 425.576.5190.

Resiliency in the workplace

When we think of resilience, we often think about bouncing back and returning to a previous state after undergoing stress. In a fascinating training I attended by Lou Bergholz, I learned about resiliency and how we can foster it in the workplace and in our lives.

The definition Bergholz uses for resilience is “successful adaptation to adversity that equips you to be more skillful at handling future challenges.” I like to think of it as not only how do we survive the change or stress, but how do we emerge stronger and better for having gone through it?

It turns out that the most important factor in our resilience is having strong relationships and interconnectedness with each other. In an organization, resilience is built by working on a team. When teams spend time together, they learn to solve problems by listening to the diverse voices and perspectives represented on the team and having to rely on each other.

Teams provide a reality check for each other, help make sense of priorities, as well as validation of ideas. Individuals can ask for help from their team and receive help when offered. There is strength in group decisions.

Teams need time together to develop true interconnectedness for maximum resiliency. Keep teams together and provide training for managers since they set the tone and culture. Individuals, practice being there for each other. Organizations, create conditions that promote a caring culture.

Change and stress are not just part of life, but necessary for growth. Connect with and care about the people around you and you will be best equipped to handle the challenge.

~Hester Winn, Office Manager and Human Resources

Resident Action Project

One year ago, the Resident Action Project kicked off at Ellsworth House. The project brought together residents of affordable housing, people in need of affordable housing, service providers, and organizers. The goal was to create a movement that amplifies the voices of those who are often ignored, marginalized, and inadequately served by our policies and “social safety net.” RAP seeks to create one unified voice that demands action and change, and to have it come from people experiencing housing instability and financial hardships themselves.

One year in, we are still in our nascent stages. We have questioned how to plan effective meetings without being repetitive but still being welcoming to new members. We’ve had challenges building momentum, one of the greatest being simply access: it’s hard to plan a meeting in a place that everyone can get to, and it’s challenging for people with low-incomes and few resources to get around the Eastside without a car.

But we have still made a great deal of progress. Some of our members have shown up faithfully to every meeting and phone call. Some resident leaders have stepped up to create foundational documents and curriculum plans. Others have been fearless in their willingness to conduct outreach.

But…Imagine Housing is a housing developer. Why are we a part of RAP?

Imagine Housing is a housing developer, yes, but our mission and vision are greater than that. Our mission is to develop affordable housing, and to build welcoming communities and foster vibrant futures. And our vision is an Eastside with interconnected and welcoming communities where all people can live, learn, work and play. Yet 485 units of housing just isn’t enough to fulfill either of those in a rapidly growing and changing region. Nor is it enough to continue building subsidized housing—we must also stop the flow of people entering homelessness, and stop the rapid increase of names on our waitlists. Our waitlist increased 22 percent in seven months from June 1 to December 31, 2015. We now have more than 2,600 people waiting for one of our homes. We can keep supplying housing, but unless we also do more to combat the housing crisis from the demand side, we will never fully solve the problem.

So that is why we advocate. That is why we provide the opportunity to our residents to engage in RAP. That is why we want to encourage them to get involved, learn how to be advocates, and speak out on behalf of others who don’t yet have housing. Because no one should have to wait nine years to access housing they can afford. Even one year is far too long.

Last week, RAP had its forth gathering since its inception. Members received training on outreach and recruitment, and then practiced what we learned by making phone calls to invite more people to join the movement and come to the upcoming community night (interested? Shoot me a message!). Together, we committed to invite 138 new people to come to the next event. Two residents led some of the presentations. RAP has the potential to create leaders and empower residents to speak up and demand change. It also has the potential to help us build more housing and create stronger, connected communities.

I am excited that we have the opportunity to participate in RAP. I am hopeful that we can help bring together people who have long been marginalized and ignored and demand to be heard. I am positive that we can create a better society if everyone has an equal voice, equal access, and equal rights. And I am so inspired by those who have joined already, and have shown such dedication to this cause. It’s a difficult task ahead of us, but I have no doubt that we can make our voices heard and help create the change we want to see in our communities.

~Kathryn Jacoby, Operations Coordinator