Imagine Housing Blog

October 26, 2022 by Imagine Housing

Yi Zhao to Lead Imagine Housing as Incoming Executive Director

For Immediate Release
October 26, 2022

Contact: Molly Judge, Director of Advancement, 425.521.5203, mollyj@imaginehousing.org

Yi Zhao to Lead Imagine Housing as Incoming Executive Director

BELLEVUE, WASH (October 26, 2022) — Imagine Housing welcomes Yi Zhao as its next executive director.  As a Chinese American, Zhao will be the first person of color to lead the organization and is a local leader with an established track record advancing housing equity and social justice at the grassroots, county and state levels. His experience and professionalism, as well as his very personal connection to the Eastside, will add greater momentum to Imagine Housing’s affordable housing development and vision for a more interconnected and welcoming community where all people can live, learn, work and play.

“We are thrilled to welcome Yi’s skillful leadership and finely honed expertise in the affordable housing sector,” said Carolynn Ferris, board president of Imagine Housing. “Yi has deep roots in the Eastside community and has consistently demonstrated his passion for this work both personally and professionally. I’m excited to see Imagine Housing accelerate its impact with his confident leadership.”

Zhao grew up in East King County and attended Bellevue Public Schools after moving to the U.S. with his family from a little city in China near the Gobi Desert. As a first-generation immigrant who worked to bridge his Chinese and American identities at a young age, he understands the importance of nurturing a sense of belonging for all. He continues to reside on the Eastside with his wife and children and brings to Imagine Housing a legacy of connection and profound commitment to the community. Zhao will start on November 1.

“I have personally known Yi for many years and am pleased to see him take on this important role. He has demonstrated a unique capacity to partner with the City and its citizens on successful initiatives that will ensure this community, and the communities that surround us on the Eastside, can achieve joint goals and thrive,” said Mayor of Bellevue Lynne Robinson.

From the start of his career with AmeriCorps to his leadership roles with King County Housing Authority and, most recently, as Chief Asset Manager at Plymouth Housing, Zhao has pursued the advancement of meaningful social and economic justice. This includes working to close the income inequality gap by advocating for vulnerable working families and addressing the food insecurity challenges in BIPOC communities. A listener who doesn’t shy away from the complexities of the affordable housing shortage, Zhao cites his resourcefulness and skillful approach to relationship building as the key to achieving organizational excellence.

“I am excited to count Yi among my colleagues working to build a more diverse, inclusive and welcoming community on the Eastside. Imagine Housing is one of our key partners and affordable housing is essential to solving challenges for our region over the long term. ” said Patience Malaba, Executive Director of the Housing Development Consortium.

Reflecting on his new role as Executive Director of Imagine Housing, Yi Zhao said: “Leading Imagine Housing will allow me to pursue my life’s work, which has been shaped by my personal experience. I grew up on the Eastside and now, I am raising my own family here. I understand only too well the positive impact that affordable housing and housing stability has on a person’s life. I’ve benefited from a stable place to call home in countless ways and it has defined who I am today. I’m proud to be part of this vibrant and thriving community and for it to remain so, we must have housing for everyone.”

Zhao added that his vision for Imagine Housing is finely focused on bringing more housing units online so that demand meets growth and that no one who calls the Eastside home is left behind.

“Yi’s years of experience and his deep commitment to social and housing justice are exactly what Imagine Housing needs to achieve their ambitious plans for the future of affordable housing. I am thrilled that he will be leading the charge to make real, lasting change on the Eastside and make our community more affordable and inclusive for people of all incomes. I welcome Yi in his new role and look forward to working with him for the people of East King County,” said Claudia Balducci, chair of the King County Council.


Note to media:
Yi Zhao is available for interview opportunities.
Contact:  Molly Judge, Director of Advancement, 425.521.5203, mollyj@imaginehousing.org