HomeKeeper has made it much easier for us to see how the racial and ethnic makeup of our homebuyer education attendees and homeowners compares to local, state and national numbers. That knowledge will help us make decisions about how to improve equity as we move forward,” explains Fearing.
For small nonprofits like Kulshan Community Land Trust (KulshanCLT) of Bellingham, WA, tracking data and statistics can be a double-edged sword. The information is used at every level of the organization—for short-term and long-term decision-making and planning, grant applications and reporting, and when comparing to regional, state and national statistics. That means data accuracy and usefulness are critical. Yet limited budgets make staff time scarce and valuable so the method to track information must be efficient, transparent and easy to use.
Perhaps even more important, data quality and integrity are essential because the information is reported to multiple agencies, organizations and funders who, in turn, radiate the information outward to inform future decision-making and planning at the highest levels. This data has become even more important recently as we, as a nation, deal with the challenges imposed by COVID-19 and continue to increase our awareness and scrutiny of systemic racial and ethnic inequity.
KulshanCLT recently began using HomeKeeper as a Salesforce app specifically to address this double-edged sword. “Increasing demand in our area has put greater pressure on our staff who were already stretched. We’ve postponed hiring additional support because of the economic uncertainties imposed by the virus,” explains KulshanCLT Executive Director Dean Fearing. “We’ve been working steadily in our community for more than 20 years. But significant increases in population growth and property values, combined with a low rental vacancy rate under 2%, has priced many out of the Bellingham market. There are no “starter homes” in our community for low- to moderate-income working families.”
In 2019, the median price for a Whatcom County home was over $400,000, up 4.6% from the previous year. In Bellingham, the median price was up 6.9% over 2018 at $480,500. “We needed to scale up to meet the demand in our community and the only way we could do that was to invest in technology that will free up staff time,” adds Fearing.
Like many CLTs, KulshanCLT had traditionally gathered data in a custom spreadsheet system. “That system was enough when the organization was small, helping just a few dozen families a year,” notes Fearing. “But at a certain point, our system became difficult to manage so we turned to HomeKeeper.”
KulshanCLT had already been using Salesforce but they needed help to confidently and efficiently migrate and map the data from their spreadsheet system into Salesforce and HomeKeeper. They hired the very skilled consultant, Zachary Whitlock, of Lincoln Parkway Consulting. “He was a whiz and I learned so much from him,” remembers KulshanCLT Office Administrator and Bookkeeper Shell Philhower.
Using HomeKeeper to Improve Current Programs
Since implementing HomeKeeper in March 2020, the app has helped KulshanCLT identify data gaps where information wasn’t previously collected, factors such as educational attainment and gender. “Once we started using HomeKeeper this past March, we’ve identified several additional questions that we’ll add to our application forms so that we’ll be able to collect and track this additional information,” explains Philhower.
KulshanCLT also plans to change how it tracks changes in income and its relationship to Area Median Income (AMI) over time. “We’d like to do surveys down the road to see how their income changes after owning a home for, say 5, 10 or 15 years,” adds Philhower. “We can also use income data to look at the average income of our applicants, those able to buy a home, and those that sign up for homebuyer education and one-on-one counseling and then track how that changes in the future.”
Adding this data to KulshanCLT’s database will not only help expand their knowledge base, it will also contribute to the tracking of national data. “The more data we gather from our homeowners, homebuyer education class attendees and one-on-one counseling sessions, the better informed the Grounded Solutions National database becomes,” explains Philhower. “That data helps us, but it also helps HUD (Housing and Urban Development) and other community land trusts across the country who will be able to compare their work to the work others are doing and to the nation as a whole.”
“We use HomeKeeper to report to HUD of course, but we also use it regularly to manage our waiting list using a custom report,” explains Philhower. “Household size, days on the waiting list, income, race and ethnicity, veteran status and a number of other factors are all pulled into the report each time we get a new application.”
Looking Directly at Race and Ethnicity Data
Although prioritizing support for racial and ethnic minorities was already among KulshanCLT’s top priorities, their historic approach has been qualitative and organic. Salesforce and HomeKeeper will allow them to have greater confidence in their data and use that information in a more deliberate way to make decisions, develop policy and make greater efforts to correct systemic racism in homeownership.
“At the moment and historically, we collected data on paper forms and the race and ethnicity of the head of household was collected because that was required for HUD, but the spouse and children’s race and ethnicity weren’t tracked,” adds Philhower. But HomeKeeper allows you to track that information so we’ll be able to improve how we collect and use that information in the future.”
“HomeKeeper has made it much easier for us to see how the racial and ethnic makeup of our homebuyer education attendees and homeowners compares to local, state and national numbers. That knowledge will help us make decisions about how to improve equity as we move forward,” explains Fearing.
Table 1. Race and Ethnicity of KulshanCLT Homebuyer Education Class Attendees Compared to Local, State and National Data
|Current KulshanCLT Homeowners||Bellingham||State of WA||USA|
|American Indian or Alaskan Native||1.4% (5)||—||1.3% (1,233)||1.9%||1.3%|
|Asian||1.7% (6)||1.5% (2)||6.4% (6,071)||9.6%||5.9%|
|Black or African American||1.7% (6)||1.5% (2)||1.6% (1,518)||4.4%||13.4%|
|Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander||1.7% (6)||—||0.2% (190)||0.8%||0.2%|
|American Indian and White||1.4% (5)||—||a||b||c|
|Asian and White||0.6% (2)||1.5% (2)||a||b||c|
|American Indian and Black||0.3% (1)||—||a||b||c|
|Other Multiple Race||2.8% (10)||2.3% (3)||8.1% (7,684)||b||c|
|Hispanic or Latino||10.7% (39)||6.2% (8)||9.3% (8,823)||13.0%||18.5%|
|White, Hispanic||5.5% (20)||0.8% (1)||4.8% (4,193)||11.0%||16.2%|
|White, non-Hispanic||73.0% (265)||86.9% (102)||82.5% (67,615)||78.5%||76.3%|
|Chose Not to Respond||5.8% (21)||10.0% (13)||—||—||—|
a—Two or more races (all variations combined) 4.9%
b—Two or more races (all variations combined) 4.9%
c—Two or more races (all variations combined) 2.8%
— data not available.
Table 1 (above) and Figures 1 and 2 (below) summarize the race and ethnicity of KulshanCLT homebuyer education classes (2019-2020) and current KulshanCLT homeowners compared to local, state and national census data. The data show that Bellingham is less racially and ethnically diverse than the state of Washington and the U.S. as a whole, especially with regard to Black and African Americans and Hispanic or Latinos.
The race and ethnicity of KulshanCLT homebuyer education class attendees are very close to Bellingham’s current population overall. However, the number of KulshanCLTclass attendees who identify as Asian (1.7%) is markedly lower than the percentage in the Bellingham population (6.4%). It is possible that this disparity can be explained by considering education and income. For example, of those identifying as Asian ethnicity in Bellingham, 84.9% have graduated from high school and 41.6% have earned a Bachelor’s degree or higher. Those rates are higher than all other people of color in the area. It is possible that educational attainment correlates with income, and therefore, those of Asian ethnicity are less likely to seek homebuyer education classes and community land trust services. However, further analysis would be needed to confirm this hypothesis. KulshanCLT is currently working on migrating and collecting income-related data for future analysis.
In addition, the number of education attendees who identified as being two or more races (10.6% combined) is 5 to 8% higher than local, state and national demographics (4.9%, 4.9%, and 2.8%, respectively).
As mentioned above and shown in Figure 3, race and ethnicity data for current KulshanCLT homeowners is incomplete (10.0% chose not to respond). KulshanCLT has been helping families become homeowners for more than 20 years. Over that time, therace and ethnic diversity of Bellingham residents has increased steadily—and most significantly in the last few years.
Overall, although 10% of current KulshanCLT homeowners chose not to respond, when comparing the remaining 90%, KulshanCLT homeowners are slightly less racially and ethnically diverse than the Bellingham population for Asian Americans (1.7% of homeowners compared to 6.4% of the population) and slightly more non-Hispanic Whites have become homeowners (86.9% of homeowners compared to 82.5% of the current population).
Over the past 20 years, demand for KulshanCLT services has been consistently high due to escalating real estate values and plateauing wages. That demand has kept KulshanCLT’s waiting lists consistently full. As a result, KulshanCLT has not invested significant staff time or funds on outreach to populate their waiting lists. Instead, the lists have filled organically. That might explain why the racial and ethnic ratios are similar to the overall population.
One of many approaches community land trusts can take to correct historic systemic racial and ethnic inequity would be to set education attendance goals for people of color proportionately higher than the general population of the overall area.
The above data shows that while KulshanCLT education attendance over the past two years has generally mirrored the racial and ethnic make up of the local population, there is significant opportunity for KulshanCLT to increase the racial and ethnic diversity among education attendees and homeowners.
KulshanCLT plans to share this analysis with its Board so they can consider future policy changes with equity in mind. They’ll also consider reallocation of funds and staff time to increase outreach for homebuyer education classes in communities of color. It is expected that significantly increasing racial and ethnic diversity in homebuyer education classes will, in turn, increase the racial and ethnic diversity of future KulshanCLT homebuyers long-term.
KulshanCLT is also excited to use HomeKeeper to improve the efficiency of their data entry to free up staff time to focus on scaling up the number of homes in the trust. They are also excited to fill historic data gaps regarding race, ethnicity, gender, educational attainment and income. “Our next steps will include a direct online interface for our website that would allow applicants to enter some information directly online,” says Philhower. “That will save us so much time on data entry. We can also eventually use it to send emails and letters and to streamline so much as we learn more.”
“This data will support an informed discussion among our Board of Trustees on setting long-term goals and identifying actions we can take as an organization to improve racial and ethnic equity in our community,” adds Fearing.
Philhower also uses the HomeKeeper online forum, attends webinars, and participates in a local monthly virtual meeting for administrative leaders where they discuss and learn from each other additional ways to use and troubleshoot Salesforce and HomeKeeper. “I also like the spirit of community that Salesforce promotes,” adds Philhower. “It feels good to know that if we need additional help, or want to implement a new idea, we might be able to get that help for free or affordably because of the supportive community, articles and trainings they’ve built.”
If you have a data story you’d like to share on our HomeKeeper blog, let us know! We are always looking to highlight the ways that HomeKeeper is helping organizations use data to build more efficient, effective, equitable programs.