Community

Threshold Fund

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

In their April 25 and May 23 opinion pieces, Sarah Bond-Yancey of Habitat for Humanity of Whatcom County (Habitat) and Dean Fearing of Kulshan Community Land Trust (KulshanCLT) shared perspectives on Whatcom County’s dire affordable housing situation and ways their organizations are working to address it. They highlighted the many ways that family and community potential are stifled by the severe shortage of affordable housing in our communities: increased risk of health problems and job insecurity and, for children, poor academic performance and behavioral challenges, among many others.

In the nonprofit world, we throw around a lot of statistics. Data helps us identify and, to some extent, understand community challenges. And it can be meaningless without explanation and context. For example, housing affordability is often discussed in terms of Area Median Income (AMI): What is the AMI in Whatcom County? What percentage of AMI does an individual or a family need to earn in order to afford housing?

Whatcom County’s AMI for a four-person household is $54,650. In order to afford other basics like food and clothing, you should spend no more than 30 percent of your income on housing. If you earn the AMI, you could spend as much as $1,500 per month on rent or a mortgage.

KulshanCLT clients earn up to 80 percent of AMI. That means spending no more than $1,100 on housing. Habitat’s homeowners earn between 30 and 60 percent of AMI, allowing between $409 and $820 per month on housing, respectively. Average rent in Bellingham is approximately $1,200 per month. The vacancy rate in the rental market is less than 1 percent. The high cost of housing in Whatcom County puts intense pressure on the limited affordable housing that does exist.

To relieve that pressure, Habitat and KulshanCLT have been adding permanently affordable housing to the community for years, a few houses at a time. Both organizations have passionate, dedicated volunteers and an abundance of demand for their valuable services, particularly in the current housing market. What’s missing? It’s the money to go from few to many at a faster pace.

It takes more than information to successfully tackle complex issues like affordable housing. That’s where the creativity, resourcefulness and collaborative nature of local nonprofits come in. Habitat and KulshanCLT combine their unique expertise, resources and shared goals to put more families—more of our neighbors—into homes that will literally transform their lives. Thanks to their ingenuity and partnership, Whatcom County is launching a solution to a nationwide problem.

The Threshold Fund at the Whatcom Community Foundation is the brainchild of John Moon and Dean Fearing, the executive directors of Habitat and KulshanCLT. They brought the idea for the fund, a revolving loan guaranty fund, to the Whatcom Community Foundation. Their message: “We have an idea for a way to build more affordable housing for less money, and we want the Community Foundation to help make it happen.”

The Threshold Fund is designed to do three simple, powerful things:

• Exponentially accelerate the number of affordable homes Habitat and KulshanCLT can bring to market—from two to three per year, on average, to more than 50 over a few years.

* Reduce the cost of borrowing for construction loans for Habitat, KulshanCLT, and other affordable housing providers. That means more families in safe, stable homes and able to fulfill their potential.

* Create a reusable pool of funding so that more permanently affordable homes can be built in the future—called financial recycling.

Together, we are working to raise $5 million so the Threshold Fund can back multiple affordable housing projects at the same time. That will help us catch up with demand. It will ensure Whatcom County has permanently affordable homes for more of the people working hard to contribute to the local economy while they build lives for their families.

The Community Foundation has been making grants to nonprofit partners for more than 20 years. Those organizations put that money to work making life here better for everyone. Grant funding is important and valuable. Rethinking what we do and the way we do it is also important. Ideas like the Threshold Fund make it possible to put our financial assets to work in new ways. In this case, those assets will go to work over and over again. The Community Foundation is working toward a vision: Everyone who lives here thrives. Habitat and KulshanCLT are working with us to make that happen. You can help.

Learn more at whatcomcf.org/thresholdfund

Mauri Ingram is president of the Whatcom Community Foundation.

Past Columns
Fierce Urgency of Now

January 15, 2020

The Three Rs

December 18, 2019

Saying Goodbye

December 11, 2019

Cold and Alone

December 4, 2019

Big Money Politics

November 13, 2019

A Win for the Birds

July 24, 2019

Road to ‘Nowhere’

June 26, 2019

Game Changes

April 24, 2019

Salish Sea Science

January 23, 2019

Cherry Point Amendments

January 16, 2019

Invest in the Future

September 26, 2018

A Desperate Call

August 29, 2018

Criminalizing Protest

July 18, 2018

Imprisoned Splendour

May 9, 2018

Pathways to Homeownership

April 25, 2018

Yes on I-1631

April 11, 2018

Events
Today
A Forest of Words Poetry Competition

10:00am|Whatcom County

Deep Forest Experience

11:00am|Rockport State Park

Paddling With Spirits

6:00pm

The Curious Savage

7:00pm|Alger Community Church

Beauty and the Beast

7:00pm|BAAY Theater

Contest of Crowns

7:30pm|ACT Annex

The Revolutionists

7:30pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

Space Trek

7:30pm|Upfront Theatre

Pancake Breakfast

8:00am|Ferndale Senior Center

Martin Luther King, Jr. Human Rights Conference

8:30am|Whatcom Community College

WNPS Field Trip

9:00am|Larrabee Park

Gluten- and Dairy-Free Cooking

10:00am|Blaine Library

Skagit Eagle Festival

10:00am

Winter Farmers Market

10:00am|Depot Market Square

Your Life is a Story Writers Group

10:30am|South Whatcom Library

Deep Forest Experience

11:00am|Rockport State Park

Womxn's March

11:00am|Bellingham City Hall

Propagating Perennials

11:00am|Christianson's Nursery

Seed Swap, Barter Fair and Skillshare

12:00pm|Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship

Camera Unobscura Workshop

1:00pm|Whatcom Museum's Lightcatcher Building

More than a label

2:00pm

Bird Smarts

2:00pm|Everson Library

Discovering Sherry Tasting

2:00pm| Seifert & Jones Wine Merchants

Rising Above the Pain

4:00pm|Village Books

Sunrise Night of Music

6:00pm|Maple Hall

Blue Abode Comedy Showcase

7:00pm|Blue Abode Bar

Patsy Cline Tribute Concert

7:00pm|Magnolia Grill Hall

Hot Club of Troy

7:00pm|Walton Theatre

Whatcom Wind Ensemble Winter Concert

7:00pm|Performing Arts Center Concert Hall

Space Trek

7:30pm|Upfront Theatre

Salsa Night

9:30pm|Cafe Rumba

Tomorrow
A Forest of Words Poetry Competition

10:00am|Whatcom County

Deep Forest Experience

11:00am|Rockport State Park

Beauty and the Beast

7:00pm|BAAY Theater

The Curious Savage

7:00pm|Alger Community Church

Skagit Eagle Festival

10:00am

Deep Forest Experience

11:00am|Rockport State Park

Space Trek

7:30pm|Upfront Theatre

Sedro-Woolley Community Breakfast

8:00am|American Legion Post #43

Skagit Eagle Festival

10:00am

Deep Forest Experience

11:00am|Rockport State Park

Langar in Lynden

11:00am| Guru Nanak Gursikh Gurdwara

Birding for Kids

2:30pm

An American in Paris

7:30pm|Mount Baker Theatre

An American in Paris

7:30pm

Monday
Deep Forest Experience

11:00am|Rockport State Park

Skagit Eagle Festival

10:00am

Deep Forest Experience

11:00am|Rockport State Park

Birding for Kids

2:30pm

MLK Day Work Party

9:00am|Barr Creek

MLK Day of Service Work Party

10:00am|Whatcom Creek

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Read-In

10:00am|Village Books

Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Celebration

12:00pm|Mount Baker Theatre

Teen Art Club

3:00pm|Blaine Library

Community Soup Kitchen

6:00pm|Little Cheerful Cafe

Cider U

6:30pm|Thousand Acre Cider House

Poetrynight

7:00pm|Alternative Library

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day event

7:00pm|Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship

Guffawingham

9:00pm|Firefly Lounge

see our complete calendar »