Homelessness, affordable housing among top concerns in City survey

Broadway Park by Lauren McClanahan

​"Broadway Park" by Lauren McClanahan

​The results of the 2018 City of Bellingham Residential Survey show that while Bellingham residents feel we have a very high quality of life, the city faces significant challenges with homelessness and affordable housing.

Western Washington University's Center for Economic and Business Research conducted the 2018 City of Bellingham Residential Survey on behalf of the City of Bellingham in Fall 2018. A total of 1,295 responses were obtained after a letter to 7,000 randomly selected Bellingham residences was sent in the early fall.

The purpose of the survey was to seek feedback from the community about their experience as residents of the City of Bellingham. The survey was modeled after similar past surveys administered by the City of Bellingham, the most recent from Fall 2016. Results from previous studies were used in a historical analysis of most questions.

Survey results

Overall, Bellingham residents are extremely positive about the quality of life in Bellingham. About 92 percent of respondents rated our city's quality of life either excellent or good, while about 7 percent gave a rating of fair. Only 12 respondents in the entire survey rated the quality of life in Bellingham as poor.

While residents appreciate and value Bellingham as a place to live, many people have concerns and feel there is room for improvement, especially around homelessness and affordable housing.

More than 60 percent of respondents rank homelessness as the most important challenge facing Bellingham in both the closed and open-ended sections of the survey. This is up from 55 percent in the 2016 survey.

“Our community has expressed a deep concern for people experiencing homelessness, and they look to the City of Bellingham to help lead on these efforts," said Mayor Kelli Linville. “The City continues to collaborate with Whatcom County, the Port of Bellingham, our nonprofits and our faith community to provide services to keep people safe and warm and to expand resources for unsheltered people."

The City provides $4.9 million in a given year for housing and services for low-income residents and people experiencing homelessness, including funding for shelters and facilities operations, outreach, hotel vouchers, permanent housing and support services.

“I thank the residents of Bellingham for speaking up and telling me what issues they want solved in their community. I want residents to know that homelessness is an issue that resonates with me and my staff personally, and we are seeking solution to this complex problem every day," Mayor Linville said.  

Housing affordability was rated the second most important challenge facing Bellingham. Twenty percent of respondents in the survey identified themselves as renters, and 78 percent of residents rated housing affordability as fair or poor. This is up from 71 percent in 2016.

Other facts about the survey:

  • Respondents participated from every neighborhood in Bellingham, though most responses came from the Alabama Hill, Birchwood, Columbia, Samish and South Hill neighborhoods.
  • The 1,295 responses were obtained from Bellingham's 89,045 estimated residents – based on the 2017 census.
  • More than half of respondents were over 55 years old, disproportionate to Bellingham's demographics, which report about a quarter of residents over 55.
  • The City fared extremely well in supporting community events, providing physical access to public facilities and adequate inclusive services for diverse sexual orientations.

For more information

To read the survey results or review past surveys, visit the City's webpage at cob.org/survey.

To read about the City's efforts around homelessness, visit cob.org/homelessness.

To read more about the City's efforts around affordable housing, visit cob.org/services/housing/Pages/affordable-housing.aspx

Media Contacts

​Vanessa Blackburn, Communications Director
Mayor's Office
(360) 778-8115
vblackburn@cob.org