Bellingham has tried a number of approaches to its affordable housing problem, even providing tiny house encampments that offer temporary shelter for people experiencing homelessness.
A developer has arrived in the city with a decidedly different twist on the tiny home concept. Bridgeview Asset Management plans to site 50 tiny homes — although much less tiny than the shelter version — in the Meridian neighborhood and sell them relatively cheaply in a market that’s become increasingly challenging for prospective homebuyers.
The developer would create Bellis Fair Tiny Home Park at 195 E. Bellis Fair Pkwy., between Petco and WinCo Foods, and sell the 300-plus-square-foot structures for $125,000 to $150,000, Bridgeview principal Andrew Cramer said.
To get an idea of where these homes would stand on the affordability spectrum, the median price of a Bellingham house in the first quarter of 2022 was $689,000, according to a report from Troy Muljat, owner and president of Muljat Group Realtors.
Cramer said his tiny home development should cater to young professionals who don’t even bother to go house hunting and head straight for the rental market. The residences at Bellis Fair Tiny Home Park could carry a mortgage payment below Bellingham’s standard rental rate, Cramer said.
The proposed development, which will include a commercial space, doesn’t have all the required permits yet, but Cramer and city officials said the project is nearly ready to break ground. Construction would likely begin next spring, Cramer said.
Bellingham mini houses’ project for homeless people:
City Planning Director Blake Lyon supported the developer’s concept in principle.
“We know that the city of Bellingham, like many other jurisdictions in the state and across the country, are dealing with shortages of housing for a range of different incomes,” Lyon said. “Projects such as these, that look to a different approach and different model, give us the opportunity to really try to address this need.”
Lyon noted the project location was appropriate for residents with low or moderate incomes, given that it is near transit stops, a grocery store and jobs.
To encourage construction of more homes for people in this income bracket, Bellingham has reduced some fees and offered tax incentives on affordable housing projects, with mixed results. The city has also used taxes collected since 2012 for the Home Fund to build or repair more than 700 affordable residences.
The proposed tiny home park, on the other hand, is a market-based solution that doesn’t need to be propped up with city incentives or dollars. All it took, Cramer said, was a little creativity and flexibility from city officials.
Bridgeview sought permission to encroach 8 feet into the Bellis Fair Parkway right-of-way on the south end of the property, so it could fit more homes on the narrow portion of the 4.92-acre parcel that’s suitable for development. A salmon-bearing stream and wetlands cover the north end of the site. The city’s hearing examiner approved the request after the city planner overseeing the project testified in support of it.
“To me, it speaks to the city really wanting to see this happen,” Cramer said. “What I’m hoping is, other municipalities are going to see this as a way to solve an affordable housing crisis without spending any money.”
Our money has no value anymore… People have to be happy even if they own almost nothing… [Cascadia Daily]
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The younger generation may like the tiny homes, which look like upgraded shorty containers. It would make me claustrophobic. Looks like the American Dream has be downsized? 125k is stupid money for 300 square feet.
$416 per square foot, really?
Oh, what a lovely camp they have! Reminds me of the quarantine camps in shanghai. All fenced in with guards- err… I mean staff, on site 24 hours a day. Make sure to report to the cadre- I mean case worker, to make sure you are towing the line. What other mandates? Have you had your daily pcr test, jabs, boosters, training, meetings, good citizen credit report? If so you can go out of the gate today, be back before 3pm when we lock the gate, or there will be consequences. Subject to search upon entry. Now this may seem good to the homeless that have been thrown in prison and subjected to abuses, after being arrested for things like standing or sitting a place too long, seen carrying a backpack and sleeping bag, or God forbid, holding up a sign, exercising your 1st amendment right of freedom of speech. The man with the baseball cap looked sad and looked down when he said the place was great. Although the woman in the video said the goal was to have people placed in long term housing, you go from state run camp to state run housing. Subjected to search anytime, mandates, the rules are endless, many in small print. No thanks, glad I left Hell-ingham a while ago.