First projects selected for funding from Bellingham low-income housing levy

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDOctober 9, 2013 

Bellingham Home Fund Project

CITY OF BELLINGHAM

BELLINGHAM - Money to fix up aging housing for seniors, women and children and to build new housing for the homeless and farmworker families makes up part of the first round of funding from a Bellingham levy approved by voters.

Eight projects have been selected to receive a little more than $3.8 million during the next two years from the Bellingham Home Fund.

Bellingham voters approved a property tax increase in November 2012 to help the needy and the homeless get into affordable housing. The levy is expected to raise about $3 million a year for seven years for the Bellingham Home Fund.

"We're investing in new units for both renters and homeowners," said David Stalheim, Housing Program and Block Grant manager for the city of Bellingham, of the projects.

Stalheim said the first round also represents the city's investment in preserving housing stock.

One goal of the housing levy is to help create or preserve 417 units over its seven years; the first round of funding will produce or preserve 246 housing units during the first two years, according to a city report announcing the first round.

"It's pretty amazing to be able to do that so quick," Stalheim said.

Levy funds also will be used to provide rental assistance and other services to help the homeless or those in danger of becoming homeless.

Mayor Kelli Linville selected the projects after hearing from the public and an advisory board. Some pieces of the funding must go back before the City Council because requests for preservation dollars exceeded the original budget, according to a report that detailed the projects and amounts awarded.

PRESERVATION

In the preservation category, three organizations that help provide housing for homeless women and children - YWCA, Dorothy Place and Lydia Place - are receiving a combined $641,918 in levy funding to fix up their buildings or make them more energy efficient.

The city also has earmarked $100,000 that will come from federal dollars for the Dorothy Place project.

Deer Run Terrace, an apartment complex for seniors, will get $350,000 in levy money to modernize and upgrade the building. The city has earmarked another $200,000 for the preservation project that will come from federal dollars.

Allocations of federal dollars also must have City Council approval.

Money from the Bellingham levy also will allow the city to allocate a total of $250,000 over the next two years to the Opportunity Council to weatherize and repair manufactured homes.

"We've committed to serving no fewer than 44 households," said Wade Gardner, director of the Home Improvement Department at Opportunity Council.

PRODUCTION

Catholic Housing Services received money for two of its projects to build new housing:

• $362,500 toward its proposed 42-unit housing and commercial development at 1122 Cornwall Ave., for the homeless. It would cost about $9.7 million.

• $1.5 million toward its Bakerview Family Housing Project at 760-824 W. Bakerview Road. The 50 units - two- and three-bedroom - would serve farmworkers living in Whatcom County and their families, and would cost $9.9 million.

Levy dollars totaling $186,528 also will go to Sun Community Services to build a duplex at 2317 and 2319 Lincoln St. to provide housing for six people who are homeless and have a behavioral health diagnosis.

The first round of funding also included $255,000 toward a collaboration between Kulshan Community Land Trust and Habitat for Humanity to rehabilitate 13 homes in neighborhoods with high rental rates. The $2.8 million project will help low-income residents buy a house in the city.

MORE ON PROJECTS

Click here for project details and the amount of money awarded from the Bellingham Home Fund.

Reach Kie Relyea at 360-715-2234 or kie.relyea@bellinghamherald.com.

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