Bellingham residents are being asked to extend a property tax that helps pay for low-income housing programs citywide.
In June, City Council members unanimously voted to place the Bellingham Home Fund measure on the Nov. 6 ballot.
This new measure would replace the final year of a housing tax that was approved in 2012 and was set to expire next year. Residents won’t be double-taxed in 2019.
What it means:
Money collected from the tax would continue to help with down payments for home buyers, provide rental assistance and build housing aimed at low-income residents, among other benefits.
A vote to approve the Bellingham Home Fund would cost homeowners 36 cents for every $1,000 of assessed value on their home, replacing the same amount they have paid since 2012.
That amounts to $108 annually for someone who owns a $300,000 house.
It would last for 10 years.
In a 2017 citywide survey, Bellingham residents cited homelessness and a lack of affordable housing among their top concerns.
That’s in reaction to skyrocketing rent and home prices across Western Washington.
▪ Median home sales prices in Bellingham have topped $400,000 at times this year, according to data from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.
▪ Average rent in Bellingham was $1,600 in September, according to the Zillow Rent Index. That’s down 7.6 percent from last year.
▪ Fair market rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Bellingham is $1,028, a figure that the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development uses in setting subsidies for low-income renters.
▪ About 52 percent of Bellingham residents are renters, according to data from the city of Bellingham.
▪ Vacancy rates have been between 0 percent and 2 percent, according to several sources, adding to the shortage of affordable housing.
Income instability continues around Whatcom County, according to the United Way’s current ALICE report on asset-limited, income-constrained, employed residents, which is compiled using census data and other government figures.
▪ Some 18 percent of Whatcom County residents are below the poverty live, according to the report.
▪ According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, a Washington resident must earn $26.87 per hour to afford the average apartment.
The Home Fund is backed by several local elected officials and a broad coalition of Bellingham-area businesses, unions, political and civic groups — including Whatcom Democrats, the Bellingham Regional Chamber of Commerce, Sustainable Connections, and St. Joseph hospital.
No organized opposition has been identified, but Whatcom Republicans recommended rejecting it in a Facebook post and in a mailed voter guide. No one volunteered to write a statement against it for inclusion in the Whatcom County voter guide.