The challenges in the housing world are many, including: ending homelessness, increasing the supply of affordable rental housing, and creating a range of new for-sale housing types that provide an entry to home ownership. These are nationwide issues, but are even more acute in coastal areas surrounded by plentiful natural and cultural amenities. Compounding these problems locally, expanding student enrollment and a growing population have resulted in some of the lowest rental vacancy rates in the State.
These issues will not be resolved by a few simple changes. More housing supply, a wider range of housing types, and the creation of more middle-wage jobs will help close the affordability gap. These require an engaged community and a willingness to consider a wide range of solutions. The Council has initiated a series of discussions on these issues, including Council work sessions on rental access barriers, and sessions to explore proposals to increase the supply of market-rate housing. A Town Hall in June allowed Council members to hear ideas from experts and the public on rental and ownership affordability solutions.
The City Council supports City efforts to encourage new housing production.
Urban Village Incentives support development of both residential and commercial buildings in designated areas, including Downtown. A housing levy passed by the voters in 2012 ("Home Fund") supports new affordable housing construction, rehabilitates existing affordable housing, and pays for services needed to help people stay in their homes. There is also a
multi-family tax exemption for both market-rate and affordable units in select urban areas.
City Council Town Hall on Housing
Background Briefs for Town Hall:
Planning Committee Work Sessions on Affordable Housing
The Planning Committee is examining proposals to improve the supply of affordable housing in Bellingham and to protect residents from being displaced from their homes. Meeting links and materials are posted below.
- Video, November 6, 2017: History of the Infill Housing Toolkit
- Video, September 25, 2017: Potential approaches for additional housing choice
- Video, September 11, 2017: Zoning history; mobile home displacement concerns
- Video, August 14, 2017: Panel discussion, "Missing Middle" housing
- Video, July 24, 2017: Demographic/housing challenges and school district boundaries
- Current Housing Statistics Summary, July 24, 2017
Planning Committee Work Sessions on Residential Rental Barriers/Concerns
Many Bellingham community members reside in rental housing. A number of concerns have been brought to Council's attention, including how to provide information on tenant rights and responsibilities, and income discrimination issues in rental housing. The committee is
exploring a variety of possible proposals and solutions to solve these problems. In this series, the Planning Committee hosts professionals who bring various perspectives on the issue, including
renter advocacy organizations, rental property managers, and organizations that own or manage public housing or run rental assistance programs. Visit these links for meeting videos and materials:
- Video, December 4, 2017: Public Hearing on an Ordinance Adopting Protections for Residential Tenants
- Video, November 6, 2017: Discussion of Draft Ordinance Adopting Protections for Residential Tenants (Committee of the Whole)
Video, October 9, 2017: Committee direction on proposals to address rental barriers and concerns
- Video, July 10, 2017: Presentations by experts on rental barriers and solutions
- July 10, 2017 Meeting Minutes: Recommendations to Council, Page 4
- Video, June 19, 2017: Rental protections used in other jurisdictions
- Video, June 5, 2017: Discussion of discrimination issues facing Section 8 renters
- Video, May 22, 2017: Presentation of access issues affecting renters in Bellingham
- Public Comment Received by Council
- Memo, Source of Income Discrimination Ordinances
Other Housing Resources