Housing Crisis Solutions
Wednesday, May 23, 2018
In Sarah Bond-Yancey’s April 25 column in Cascadia Weekly, she outlined pathways to homeownership, detailing the current housing crisis in our area and across the country.
“The inadequate supply of Whatcom County homes in the $125,000 to $300,000 price range keeps average wage earners in the rental market long past when they should be able to purchase a home,” she wrote, noting that fact paired with the 0.6 percent vacancy rate in area rentals results in a vast gap in the “housing continuum.”
That gap has tangible community impacts including increases in homelessness, negative effects on the environment and local business growth, and disruption to children’s education, to name a few.
There are solutions to this crisis that have been tested and proven. With strong community partnerships and support, the Community Land Trust Model that Kulshan Community Land Trust (Kulshan CLT) has been applying since 1999 could help.
Community Land Trust Model
Kulshan CLT works within the prevailing economic and governing systems to build and help purchase homes—holding the land in trust—to better the common good in our community. That creates opportunities and preserves affordable homeownership. We build homes close to jobs, schools and other services to minimize commutes and other impacts on the community. We also assist and educate people of limited means to become homeowners in existing neighborhoods gracefully.
The Community Land Trust Model ensures that affordable homeownership is preserved for people working and living in our community, and for our children and grandchildren. The model isn’t just a theory, either. In practice, Kulshan CLT homeowners are eight times less likely to experience home foreclosure and its negative impacts.
This model works best when applied through strong community partnerships. Together we grow awareness and create an opportunity for our community to be positive and generous, investing in a society where people take care of each other, so it will always be there.
Community Solutions Through Strong Partnerships
There are no longer low-cost starter homes in our community. To bridge the housing continuum gap, Kulshan CLT has partnered with Habitat for Humanity of Whatcom County and the Whatcom Community Foundation (WCF) to build more than 50 new homes as part of the Telegraph Townhomes project. Breaking ground this summer, the project will provide permanently affordable homes at prices hardworking families can afford. The homes will be priced for people earning 30 to 130 percent of area median income (AMI)—between $125,000 and $300,000—matching home prices with what area jobs pay. Mortgages will be as low as $350 per month and energy bills as low as $25 per month.
We’ve also worked with Whatcom Transportation Authority (WTA) to establish a new bus stop on site to ensure residents have transportation options and minimal traffic impact. This will help reduce the number of county families who currently drive farther and farther from their job center to find economical housing options.
Telegraph Townhomes are a solution where Whatcom County families currently see roadblocks.
Together, our efforts bring stability and financial independence to modest-income households. That stability results in deeper, longer-term connections with neighbors and area businesses. A permanent home also means children change schools less often, allowing families to more fully participate in civic engagement and area job centers. That security at home extends beyond the household and neighborhood, and into our communities—creating opportunities to improve social justice, economic vitality and environmental sustainability.
How We Can Work Together
There are many ways to get involved and help Kulshan CLT, Habitat, and WCF create pathways to homeownership that will bridge the growing gap. Together we can build awareness by opening the dialogue. We can volunteer our time and skills with these organizations. We can make a donation or plan to leave a legacy. Every hour of labor and every dollar is a lifetime investment toward sustainable home ownership and community stability long-term.
Learn more and get involved at http://www.kulshanclt.org.
Dean Fearing is executive director of Kulshan Community Land Trust