Schools and Planning for Growth
Wednesday, September 27, 2017
Every child should succeed in school and in life, and it all starts with a safe, stable place to call home.
What that home looks like, where it’s located and how much it costs can help define what success is for our community’s kids.
When we consider generational impacts while planning for Bellingham’s residential growth, nowhere are they felt more than in our public schools and with growing families. If we start to look at what success means for kids that enter kindergarten this fall, in 2017, the decisions we make will begin to bear fruit for them—or not—in 2030. When they graduate, will they even be able to afford to live here?
Along the way, our decisions to create fair, equitable, accessible and safe housing choices for families will affect who lives in our community and what it looks like. Do we value having people who work here also live here? Is it better for families and kids to grow up in local neighborhoods and feel connected to their community? Is it better for the environment and people’s health? From what we’ve gathered over the last 25-plus years of living here, we think the answers are yes.
Two of the tenants of the School District’s Bellingham Promise are that diversity enhances a strong and healthy community, and that together we achieve more than alone.
To us, housing is an equity and fairness issue. By not allowing people access to different housing types like townhouses, duplexes, backyard cottages and mother-in-law units over garages, we are effectively denying housing to people mostly with lower incomes. That includes young families with children in our school district. In many cases, equitable housing choices could allow for kids to walk to their schools.
The Bellingham School District believes in the One Schoolhouse approach—that all of our schools must be equitable—from high-quality buildings, to opportunities for enrichment, high-quality teaching and learning, and above all, that all children should be loved.
What if these kinds of priorities and values were reflected in how we as a community fill in, build out and grow over the next 20y years? Part of how we develop our housing must be considered through the lens of positive youth development.
Today, 52 percent of Bellingham rents—in single-family homes, duplexes, multiplexes, or accessory dwelling units. About half of those households are cost-burdened with high rents relative to income, all with no end in sight.
There are silver linings in our community.
In 2012, voters passed the Bellingham Home Fund—a critical funding source for building and preserving affordable housing for working families and others with low incomes. The Villa at Sante Fe on Bakerview is just one example of this program. Kulshan Community Land Trust is developing more than 50 new affordable homes on Telegraph Road after finishing several homes with accessory dwelling units in the Birchwood neighborhood.
But we need to do more: Families with housing vouchers shouldn’t be discriminated against based on their source of income. The City should also explore ways of expanding housing choice in all neighborhoods and voters should renew the Bellingham Home Fund so that we can continue to provide safe, stable housing so that every kid has the opportunity for success in school and in life.
Kelly Bashaw was elected to Bellingham School Board in 2007. She is the senior director of the board. Dan Hammill was appointed to Bellingham City Council in 2014 and elected in 2015. He represents the Third Ward. They married in 2012.