Residents of Western Washington have struggled to keep up with surging housing prices for the past several years, gaining statewide attention and much speculation of the issues at play – including a shortage of housing. As housing prices have risen, many residents have looked to renting, causing the vacancy rate to drop, but the need for rental units to increase.
While renters make up more than half of the Bellingham population, there remain little options for them with meager conditions and high prices. Meanwhile, wage growth for residents countywide fails to keep pace, forcing renters to accept what little options they have at a competitive price.
According to the online real estate marketplace, Zillow, the average rent in Bellingham was $1,549 in May 2017, an increase of 6.8 percent since 2016.
This competition for rentals coincides with the lack of units and low vacancy rate that continues to drop.
A few of the adverse effects include young adults being forced to move back home, tenants who have previously lived alone having to seek out roommates, and pet owners having to find new homes for their pets under tighter pet restrictions.
For the even less fortunate who make minimum wage or rely on government housing vouchers, homelessness is the only option.
Bellingham City Council is looking for solutions and will be considering legislation to address the pressing issue of “income discrimination” that has arisen alongside the local crisis.
Another solution proposed includes extending the notices for eviction and rent increases, and restrictions on tenant discrimination based on criminal history, income status, or pet ownership.
More housing is also in the works – through June, permits have been issued for 274 multifamily units, 4 duplexes, and 113 single-family homes.
In the meantime, residents continue to show their frustration and desire for change by rallying groups for support.