The culmination of Habitat’s Home Builders Blitz this year was Build Community Day (Saturday, October 19), inspired and funded by the Whatcom Community Foundation’s Project Neighborly Program. This year’s highlight was a political forum lunch where volunteers and guests heard from some very special guest speakers. Candidates for Mayor of Bellingham and Whatcom County Executive all came to discuss how, if elected, their administrations will partner with organizations like Habitat to help solve the housing crisis in Whatcom County. The following are just a few quotes from each candidate about the housing crisis that Habitat, in partnership with many other non-profits, civic organizations, businesses, and volunteers are working hard to solve.
Habitat for Humanity in Whatcom County thanks each candidate for taking time out of their busy schedules to speak, as well as all our generous sponsors for this year’s Build Community Day: the Whatcom Community Foundation, Umpqua Bank, Kulshan Community Land Trust, the Telegraph Townhome Project, LLC, and Unity Spiritual Center.
Seth Fleetwood (candidate for Mayor of Bellingham)
“So here we are today, I got up this morning and I worked on the questions [Habitat] asked. I just want to go through them. ‘Would you characterize our current housing situation as a crisis?’ Yeah, everyone agrees with that, absolutely. Housing is unaffordable for half the people who live in Whatcom County.
“And I think this is important in that it makes it a mental-health crisis. Clearly, if you’re living your life worrying about housing affordability, you’re going to have perpetual, enduring anxiety, among many other things. And obviously in that important respect, it’s going to medically impact our ability to be happy. So, I see it as a public-health crisis that requires a vigorous public response. It makes the work of Mayor addressing housing absolutely relevant and the highest priority.”
April Barker (candidate for Mayor of Bellingham)
“Basically, I do believe we’re in a housing crisis, and it’s what I’ve been working on for the last four years. I have been working, again, for you for four years. I’ve knocked on thousands of doors. I think I’m up to 4,923 now. And I’ll be up to 6,000 by the end of this. Because I really want to hear what is important to people. And what I heard from people of Bellingham is that business as usual isn’t working. That all these plans we talk about, they’re not penciling down in projects. And it’s really really hurting people, and their families, and their stress, and all of those pieces that make us really successful in life.
“So, I encourage you, Bellingham, business as usual is not working. And yes, over 50% of people are housing cost burdened, and yes, this constitutes a housing crisis. That’s what we’ve been working rapidly as a city council, trying to address these things.”
Satpal Sidhu (candidate for Whatcom County Executive)
“We know we are better than our current politics. I think we have more in common than what divides us: our air, our water, our housing, our land, all these things we talk about, they’re not partisan issues. We have four or five things in this country, and we never get beyond, and we spend 80% of our energy on those five things. I think we need to change that. And that’s my passion…
“Five years ago, when I got on the County Council, many people have said to me that I am the voice of reason and thoughtfulness on the County Council. And I take it very seriously.
“As County Executive, I’ll work to bridge that divide.”
Tony Larson (candidate for Whatcom County Executive)
“[Habitat knows] that there’s a housing problem, and you help people, for people who don’t have homes. You know, we’ve got a lack of supply…. We have to find the root causes of some of these challenges. And there are many factors as it relates to the housing challenge that we have now. But the key factor, the absolutely primary factor is…really goes down to housing supply.
“And in your brochure, I was just reading through your brochure for the first time, and you guys know that the vacancy rate in Whatcom County right now is below 1%. In order to stabilize prices, we need to be between 4-6%. So, what that means, really simply, is that we need to be able to put homes and units online all over Whatcom County.”