by Annika Sampson
I love living in Bellingham. It’s a beautiful city, full of people who care about community and the environment. I want this to be my home for a long time. But dang — the housing crisis! I don’t know if I’ll be able to afford a single-family home, but I still want me and my family to be able to stay here. What other housing options are there, or might there be, for folks of all income levels?
Hopeful About Housing
I understand — you’re not the first person who’s come to me with these concerns and questions! As Bellingham grows, so too does its need for housing. And, Bellingham is growing for a reason — people really do love the quality of life that this place can cultivate, provided you can find safe, affordable housing … and that’s where the issue really is! At the heart of our community are our unique neighbor- hoods and the people living in them. We share our experiences with them, stay connected, and invest in the future of the place we all love.
This place we love is facing a housing crisis. We’re not building enough homes to house all the people moving here. Scarcity of housing is driving up the cost of existing housing, and some of those who already live here can’t afford it and must leave. Not only that, but the cost of housing is making it more difficult for local businesses to pay their employees enough to cover their mortgages and rent. The most vulnerable of our community members are being pushed onto our streets.
This may not be helping your stress levels, but we can’t pretend there’s not a problem — there is. But, there are also solutions to that problem. And, while the housing crisis is multifaceted and requires a multifaceted approach, study after study shows that one of the most effective ways to alleviate this crisis is to build more homes that allow a greater diversity of housing options in our neighborhoods.
Middle Housing is essential to creating affordable homes for those that live and work here. What is Middle Housing? It’s a range of housing types that exist between single-family homes and large apartment buildings — including duplexes, triplexes, row houses, ADUs [Accessory Dwelling Units], and townhomes.
These kinds of homes create gentle density and reduce sprawl, allowing us to accommodate the growth of our community while still cultivating the neighborhoods we love. With the recent passing of important state housing legislation, it is now legal to build more of these homes in Bellingham — and throughout Washington state.
Middle housing could be a great option for you, Hopeful, especially as more of these kinds of homes get built in Bellingham. I’m optimistic that we’ll choose to build these homes and welcome new neighbors, including you!
I recommend checking out the Whatcom Housing Alliance for more information about Middle Housing, as well as opportunities to learn more about diverse housing choices in Bellingham.
Annika Sampson is a Sustainable Connections staff member.