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
Support Transportation Fund

October 21, 2020

Census Countdown

September 30, 2020

Don’t Fence Us Out

July 22, 2020

Back to the wild

May 6, 2020

Every Other Weekly?

April 1, 2020

Unified Command

March 18, 2020

Kids World

January 29, 2020

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

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Works by as many as 45 Whatcom Art Guild members can be viewed from 11am-5pm Tuesdays through Sundays at Whatcom Art Market, 1103 11th St.

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An Artist's Universe at Hotel Bellwether

9:00am

View painter and mixed-media master David Syre’s latest installation, “An Artist’s Universe,” hanging throughout the corridors, lobby and dining room of Hotel Bellwether and the Lighthouse…

Fragile Ecology

11:00am

Painter Clayton Marsh’s one-man show, “Fragile Ecology: Land. People. Harmonies,” can be seen from 11am-6pm daily through May (closed Tuesdays) in Mount Vernon at Perry and Carlson Gallery,…

An Artist's Universe at Hotel Bellwether

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View painter and mixed-media master David Syre’s latest installation, “An Artist’s Universe,” hanging throughout the corridors, lobby and dining room of Hotel Bellwether and the Lighthouse…

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11:00am

Painter Clayton Marsh’s one-man show, “Fragile Ecology: Land. People. Harmonies,” can be seen from 11am-6pm daily through May (closed Tuesdays) in Mount Vernon at Perry and Carlson Gallery,…

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11:00am

Works by as many as 45 Whatcom Art Guild members can be viewed from 11am-5pm Tuesdays through Sundays at Whatcom Art Market, 1103 11th St.

An Artist's Universe at Hotel Bellwether

9:00am

View painter and mixed-media master David Syre’s latest installation, “An Artist’s Universe,” hanging throughout the corridors, lobby and dining room of Hotel Bellwether and the Lighthouse…

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11:00am

Painter Clayton Marsh’s one-man show, “Fragile Ecology: Land. People. Harmonies,” can be seen from 11am-6pm daily through May (closed Tuesdays) in Mount Vernon at Perry and Carlson Gallery,…

Whatcom Art Market

11:00am

Works by as many as 45 Whatcom Art Guild members can be viewed from 11am-5pm Tuesdays through Sundays at Whatcom Art Market, 1103 11th St.

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11:00am

Works by as many as 45 Whatcom Art Guild members can be viewed from 11am-5pm Tuesdays through Sundays at Whatcom Art Market, 1103 11th St.

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11:00am

“Origins and Evolutions: Five Generations” can be seen from 11am-4pm Tues.-Thurs., and by appointment, at least through May 22 at Gallery Syre, 465 Stuart Rd. The show gathers together…

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11:00am

View works by Stanwood-Camano Arts Guild members from 11am-5pm Wed.-Sat. in Stanwood at A Guilded Gallery, 8700 271st St. NW. A “Spring Into Art” regional juried art show can be seen through…

Whatcom Art Market

11:00am

Works by as many as 45 Whatcom Art Guild members can be viewed from 11am-5pm Tuesdays through Sundays at Whatcom Art Market, 1103 11th St.

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11:00am

Painter and sculptor Leo Osborne’s works will be featured from 11am-5pm Wednesdays through Sundays through May in Anacortes at the Scott Milo Gallery, 420 Commercial Ave. Osborne presents his…

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“Origins and Evolutions: Five Generations” can be seen from 11am-4pm Tues.-Thurs., and by appointment, at least through May 22 at Gallery Syre, 465 Stuart Rd. The show gathers together…

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11:00am

Works by Irene Dawson will be featured from 11am-5pm from 11am-5pm Mondays through Saturdays (closed Tuesdays) and 11am-4pm Sundays through May at Good Earth Pottery, 1000 Harris Ave. Ten…

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3:00pm

Students in grades 6 to 12 can sign up for a variety of virtual events through Whatcom County Library System, including “Teen Reads” from 3pm-4pm Wednesdays, “Whatcom Teen Writers” from…

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11:00am

Painter and sculptor Leo Osborne’s works will be featured from 11am-5pm Wednesdays through Sundays through May in Anacortes at the Scott Milo Gallery, 420 Commercial Ave. Osborne presents his…

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11:00am

“Origins and Evolutions: Five Generations” can be seen from 11am-4pm Tues.-Thurs., and by appointment, at least through May 22 at Gallery Syre, 465 Stuart Rd. The show gathers together…

Whatcom Art Market

11:00am

Works by as many as 45 Whatcom Art Guild members can be viewed from 11am-5pm Tuesdays through Sundays at Whatcom Art Market, 1103 11th St.

Spring Into Art

11:00am

View works by Stanwood-Camano Arts Guild members from 11am-5pm Wed.-Sat. in Stanwood at A Guilded Gallery, 8700 271st St. NW. A “Spring Into Art” regional juried art show can be seen through…

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12:00pm

View “Seeds of Culture: The Portraits and Voices of Native American Women,” “Fluid Formations: The Legacy of Glass in the Pacific Northwest,” “Jac Trautman: The Specter of the Indigenous,”…

Spring Juried Exhibit and More

12:00pm

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12:00pm

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1:00pm

Bellingham Food Bank distributes pre-packed food boxes from 1pm-4pm Thursdays at 1175 Jersey St. People can join a car queue and, when it’s their turn, volunteers will offer food boxes…

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5:30pm

If your dog loves going to the park, and you want to help take care of local parks and trails with your pooch, show your love by joining Bellingham Parks and Rec for a “Bark Steward Party”…