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
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

Divide-and-Conquer

October 11, 2017

Schools and Planning for Growth

September 27, 2017

Electronic Home Monitoring

September 13, 2017

Events
Today
Rainbow Reads

3:00pm|Ferndale Library

Cook It and Book It

3:30pm|Lynden Library

All-Paces Run

6:00pm|Fairhaven Runners

War Through the Eyes of Women Book Club

6:00pm|Bellingham Vet Center

Peru Novoandina

6:30pm|Community Food Co-op

Mind-Body-Food Connection

6:30pm|Cordata Community Food Co-op

WAKE Meeting

6:30pm|Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Center

Beginning Square Dance Lessons

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Skagit Folk Dancers

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Books on Tap

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Fancy Bingo

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Comedy Open Mic

7:30pm|Shakedown

Trove Web
Tomorrow
Bellingham at Home Informational Meeting

1:00pm|Bellingham Senior Activity Center

Endangered Species Curator's Tour

1:30pm|Whatcom Museum's Lightcatcher Building

Sedro-Woolley Farmers Market

3:00pm|Hammer Heritage Square

Prosecutors race is a referendum on reform

6:00pm

Creekside Open Mic

6:30pm|South Whatcom Library

Where the sidewalk ends

7:00pm

Walking to the End of the World

7:00pm|Village Books

Brian Dean Trio

7:00pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

Climate Change and Forests

7:00pm|Sustainable Living Center

Modified documentary and Panel Discussion

7:30pm|Pickford Film Center

Siro Trove Web
Thursday
Parkinson's Dance Class

10:00am|Ballet Bellingham

Fall Craft & Antique Show

10:00am|Northwest Washington Fairgrounds

Komo Kulshan Ski Swap

4:00pm|Bloedel Donovan

Jazz Jam

5:30pm|Illuminati Brewing

Camber Exhcange

5:30pm|1820 Scout Place

Falling Out of the Box Jewelry Challenge

6:00pm|Jansen Art Center

Squash Celebration

6:30pm|Community Food Co-op

Chuckanut Radio Hour

6:30pm|Whatcom Community College

Balkan Folk Dancers

7:00pm|Fairhaven Library

Nooksack River Travelogue

7:00pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

7:30pm|Upfront Theatre

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

7:30pm|Anacortes Community Theatre

The Duck Variations

7:30pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

The Skriker

7:30pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

Side Show

7:30pm|Lincoln Theatre

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