Middle Housing Blog

What is the City of Bellingham Consolidated Plan and why does it matter?

The City of Bellingham is getting closer to releasing it’s 2023-2027 Consolidated Plan. Every five years the city is required to prepare this plan, which provides an assessment of Bellingham’s development needs and an analysis of the housing market, with a focus on low-income individuals. This is a necessary step for the city to receive its federal block grant from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. That money is a main avenue through which more housing supply is added to the market to help the most vulnerable. The Plan also reviews “the goals, strategies and specific activities that are implemented annually in order to address those needs.” Please review the graphic for a timeline on the development of the Consolidated Plan.

The soon to be released Consolidated Plan will cover the next five years, 2023 – 2027. Part of compiling the plan was offering a public survey through the first half of 2022 (April – June 2022). The city is still taking comment through their Engage Bellingham website. The survey offered a chance for the public to give feedback on the following topics

  • Equitable Access to Housing
  • Address & Prevent Homelessness
  • Secure Housing for Vulnerable Groups
  • Community Services & Facilities

The previous consolidated plan covered 2018 – 2022. It’s important to read the Plan through a specific lens. While the data is clearly dated, municipal agencies are planning and making very long term decisions. This means they are reviewing the data of previous Consolidated Plans and watching trends from the 30,000ft level. So they are making decisions based on many many years of data.

In preparation for the release of the upcoming plan, we wanted to share key takeaways from the previous plan. As of January 2018 there were 38,228 housing units within Bellingham’s city limits and “roughly half” were single family homes. For perspective, a report that the WHA asked the COB Planning Department to pull from its Rental Registration & Safety Inspection Program showed that as of January 2022 there were 22,004 Single Family homes. This reflects a ~15% increase in SFH since the last consolidated report. Of those single family homes the median home value in 2016 was $352,000. In contrast a recent MLS report showed the median home in Whatcom County was $560,000, or an approximately ~55% increase since the last consolidated plan in 2018.

Bellingham’s Median home value is drastically higher than that now (some reports show it to be around $700,000), what is nearly as concerning is that, according to the plan, the median family income only rose 3% between 2016 and 2021. Clearly, wages are lagging way behind the ability to purchase a house in Bellingham.

The WHA is helping city staff in developing reports that will inform the consolidated plan and we’ll follow up with more details as we move closer to its release, as well as analysis of the findings. The WHA is hard at work to crafting implementable solutions to increase housing supply, which has proven to help affordability and decrease homelessness.

Please, sign up to be a Bellingham for Everyone Ally which gets you on our mailing list so we can continue the conversation, where you’ll also be presented with opportunities to get directly involved.