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Comment sought on greater rights for tenants

What can be done about the high cost of housing in Bellingham?

Bellingham residents discuss the high cost of housing at a Bellingham City Council town hall meeting Tuesday, June 13, 2017, at Bellingham High School.
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Bellingham residents discuss the high cost of housing at a Bellingham City Council town hall meeting Tuesday, June 13, 2017, at Bellingham High School.

City Council members will hold a public hearing next week to hear comments on an ordinance that would ban so-called “source of income discrimination” in rental housing citywide.

Council members voted 6-1 in October, with Council member Terry Bornemann excused, to have its staff draft an ordinance that would prohibit landlords from rejecting prospective tenants because the applicants receive funds under the Section 8 assistance program for low-income residents.

The proposed ordinance also aims to strengthen renter protections against evictions without cause and sudden, steep rental price increases.

A public hearing on the measure is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Dec. 4, in the City Council Chambers at City Hall, 210 Lottie Street.

Detailed information can be found in recordings of previous council meetings at cob.org.

Members of the council’s Planning Committee have been considering regulations against source of income discrimination and other tenant protections as part of discussions on “rental barriers” for about a year, prompted by the rapid rise in home prices and rental rates Bellingham has seen starting in 2012.

Here's how the Section 8 housing voucher program works, and why some of the poorest Whatcom County residents are having trouble finding a place to live that they can afford -- even with financial assistance.

Bellingham’s median home listing price was at $385,000 in September this year, according to Zillow. That’s up from $249,000 in February 2012. Meanwhile, the Zillow index for rent was $1,651 in September 2017, up 13.5 percent over the previous year and far outpacing the U.S. inflation rate of 1.6 percent.

Robert Mittendorf: 360-756-2805, @BhamMitty

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