Seattle U Graduate Student and Affordable Housing Advocate Receives 2020 Bullitt Environmental Prize

Written by Dean Forbes
October 1, 2020

Photo of Patience MalabaThe Bullitt Foundation awarded the 14th annual Bullitt Environmental Prize to Patience Malaba, an environmental justice and affordable housing advocate who immigrated to the United States from Zimbabwe. Malaba is currently enrolled in the Master of Public Administration program and will graduate after fall quarter.

The prize recognizes young people who overcome adversity and demonstrate the ability to become powerful environmental leaders.

The goal of the Bullitt Environmental Prize is to help broaden and diversify the leadership of the environmental movement. It comes with $100,000 awarded over two years. Malaba plans to use these resources to further her studies, with plans to enroll in a PhD program focused on the intersection of environmental law and sustainable urban planning to support affordable housing. As Seattle prepares its next update to the Comprehensive Plan in 2024, Malaba will advocate for reforms to single-family zoning, drawing on lessons from Minneapolis and Portland, to undo systemic racism in the city’s land-use policies.

“Seattle University’s focus on empowering leaders for a just and humane world is perfectly aligned with the goals of the Bullitt Environmental Prize," says Denis Hayes, president and CEO of the Bullitt Foundation. "We are both trying to support the people who will take the reins in the coming years, to bend the long arc of the moral universe toward justice. Seattle University has played an important role in the Bullitt Center - most notably in our partnership with Phil Thompson, the director of the Center for Environmental Justice and Sustainability, who helped make sure our groundbreaking water system was meeting our regenerative goals. Patience’s well-earned recognition brings our two organizations closer together.”

Malaba’s academic interests focus on affordable housing policies, urban zoning and sustainable planning and social justice issues.

“In my classes, Patience demonstrates upmost professionalism, curiosity and care for the communities we serve,” says Olha Krupa, PhD, director of the MPA program. “In her research, she explores a range of fiscal choices available to the City of Seattle and King County that could effectively address public revenue shortfalls resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.”


Zachary D. Wood, PhD, assistant professor in the Institute of Public Service, says Malaba “brings a dynamic posture of learning and critical analysis to the classroom and seamlessly marries that with a level of experience and intuition. The depth in which she takes her work and her studies has her poised to make a dramatic impact on the movement for housing equity and justice in Seattle.”

As director of Government Relations and Policy at the Housing Development Consortium of Seattle-King County, Malaba leads the organization’s policy and advocacy work. Her prior work includes leading Seattle for Everyone, a coalition advocating for the first comprehensive package of affordable housing policies in Seattle, known as the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA).=

“From transportation and climate change to racial equity and community cohesion, affordable housing sits at the root of many challenges facing society,” says Denis Hayes, CEO of the Bullitt Foundation. “Patience has shown the grit, charisma and smarts needed to bring people together around a common vision.”Born in Lupane Village in rural Zimbabwe, Malaba’s advocacy career started with the creation of the Lupane Youth for Development Trust, an organization training young people to participate in political decision-making and influence government decisions. While politics could be a dangerous activity in Zimbabwe, Malaba was motivated by a passion to care for others. Based on her experience, she was accepted to the U.S. Department of State’s Community Solutions Program, which placed her with OneAmerica, an immigrant and refugee advocacy organization in Washington State. The organization was founded by Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, U.S. Representative from Washington’s 7th District.

“Patience is a great example of the type of people OneAmerica looks for—people who are dedicated, resilient and who have immense potential and fresh perspectives as they help build stronger, more inclusive communities,” says Rep. Jayapal.

Through her work with FutureWise Malaba became involved with growth management and civic planning, serving as the project support for affordable housing in the coalition. Outside of work, she volunteered with the Sierra Club Seattle Group Executive Committee focused on environmental justice in urban growth issues, along with endorsing and supporting green candidates.

A graduate of Puget Sound Sage’s Community Leadership Institute, Institute for a Democratic Future, Malaba also serves on the Seattle Planning Commission and the Board of Directors of the Transportation Choices Coalition.