Early in 2007, Bellingham Mayor Tim Douglas and County Executive Pete
Kremen appointed a Countywide Housing Affordability Task Force (CHAT) to
develop and present action strategies and programs to address the
anticipated need for 11,000 additional housing units by the year 2022 that
are affordable to household earning 80% or less of the county median income.
After more than 40 meetings, the 12 member Task Force presented their
recommendations late in 2008.
The following goals, not listed in rank order, are actions that the Task
Force felt were fundamental to the success of housing solutions and should
be implemented as soon as possible.
- Codify housing action plan organizations -
In order to effectively implement and monitor progress on the action
items, a permanent housing action plan committee was recommended.
- Create an Affordable Housing Investment Fund (AHIF)
- This fund would provide financing necessary to meet the
- Strive to reduce land and building costs -
Adopt performance based design standards, planned unit developments,
infill developments and transfer of development rights. Adopt measures
that reduce labor and material costs, including performance based
building codes and manufactured/modular design standards. Adopt measures
that reduce infrastructure development costs, including low impact site
- Provide incentives for the creation of affordable
housing - Stimulate the development of new affordable
rental and for sale housing units through incentive-based and cash-based
cost offsets. Examples include providing additional housing units or
reduced parking requirements in exchange for affordable housing units,
or expedited permit review, impact fee or utility connection fee
reductions in exchange for affordable housing units.
- Retain older housing stock - These units
constitute a large portion of the existing affordable housing supply,
and should be retained through grants, no or low interest loans or land
- Retain and replace mobile and manufactured homes
- These units also constitute a significant portion of the existing
affordable housing supply, especially within the unincorporated county.
CHAT Final Report
Progress on CHAT Recommendations
The following is a summary of city actions relating to the CHAT
- Implementation organization - The
Whatcom Housing Advisory Committee is an existing countywide committee
that includes Bellingham representation. This committee would be the
primary vehicle for implementing the overall recommendations of CHAT.
- Funds to implement the plan - The City
cooperated with the City of Ferndale to use Whatcom County Economic
Development Investment (EDI) funds to pay impact fees and utility
connection fees for affordable housing projects. City funding is limited
to federal entitlement funds (CDBG and HOME), which are available for
qualified projects and limited planning and administration.
- Retain existing affordable housing stock -
The City continues to support the Home Rehabilitation Program and the
first-time homebuyer program of Kulshan Community Land Trust with
federal housing funds. The Opportunity Council also has funds available
for unincorporated areas for housing rehabilitation and weatherization.
- Incentives for affordable housing - The
City adopted the Infill Housing Toolkit in 2009, and expanded the
multi-unit tax exemption program in the City Center, Samish and Fountain
Urban Villages in 2010. Density bonus incentives were included in Old
Town Master Plan and the Samish Way Urban Village plan. The City has
inventoried city-owned surplus properties and continue assessment of how
those parcels could benefit affordable housing.
Contact the Community Development
Division for more information.