Habitat for Humanity in Whatcom County

2022 Build Community Day and Candidate Forum

2022 Build Community Day

Thank you to everyone who attended our 2022 Build Community Day and Candidate Forum. The chilly morning warmed up to a perfect golden day. Our volunteers broke off into four groups to work on projects around the King Mountain Neighborhood, which included a community project, installing a little free library in front of our Telegraph Community (thanks to the King Mountain Neighborhood Association), landscaping at the Unity Center, and wetland mitigation at Baker Creek. 

Thank you to a volunteer group from St. James Presbyterian Church for coming out as well. Thank you also to Cascadia Daily News for attending the event, and covering the candidate forum. You can read their coverage here

Candidate Forum

A special thank you for all of the candidates who added us to their hectic campaign schedules, and took the time volunteer and speak at our forum. Alicia Rule, Simon Sefzik, Tawsha Thompson, Dan Johnson, and Sharon Shewmake shared their ideas on what needs to be done so everyone in Whatcom County has a place to call home. 

Please make sure to vote! If you are registered, ballots should have arrived October 26th, and are due November 8th by 8pm. Visit Whatcom’s website here to find out where you can drop off your ballots. 

Because of some technical issues with the video, part of Rep. Shewmake’s remarks were missed. You can read the transcription of her entire speech below.

Thank you so much. I always feel like 10 minutes is gonna be, um, too much for me to talk. So you’ll tell me if this is the case. your hand. Seriously, thank you so much for having me today. And most importantly, thank you for the time you’ve given, um, this dedication to housing on a beautiful day.

Like this is no small thing and I hope that when you go to bed tonight and you’re tired and you’re sleeping well, you [00:11:00] can really just pat yourself on the back for a moment and realize that there’s a lot of things that you can do to spend your Saturday on a beautiful day like this. And you chose to do this and it’s meaningful and powerful and it really matters to.

Um, I wanna talk to you a little bit about some of the policies, but really I also want to tell you a little bit about why this matters to me. I have been a social worker for my whole professional life, and during that time, housing insecurity in all of its forms is something that’s presented itself day after day after day, and it has only gotten worse, not better.

What this looks like to me, oftentimes, but not always. It’s children, and this is what I know when, when children or adults have housing insecurity, nothing else works. When you are afraid and you have anxiety about your basic needs being met, it’s not just about the roof over your head, it’s about the [00:12:00] feeling that you can lay your head down at night and be.

And that, you know, there’s home. I’ve heard, uh, a young child who reconnected with me at a later time and they said, You know, when I was younger we always said in this place or that place, the house because it was never ours. But then when we finally got into a place of our own, we finally started calling it home.

And that’s what you all are doing. That’s what you do when you come out here. You’re giving people homes, security, a secure landing place at the end of the day, but also to wake up and to go do what they’re meant to do in this world because they know they have a home to go to, go home to, and to feel safe in.

Um, so that’s why this matters. It’s not just a project, it’s not just a line item on a budget. Uh, this is about people. And what that means for me in Olympia is that I will go fight like I have before to pull back money to make sure that when we talk about housing, we’re talking about housing. [00:13:00] And addressing it in all of its forms.

And this is one of the forms that’s really important. And the reason it’s important is one, it works really well here in our district and it also works really well because it allows people to have a handle on a hand up so that they can begin to feel like that’s taking care of. Now I can move forward and start reaching goals.

This is not an unattainable thing that doesn’t belong to me, like it belongs to others. This is something I can do and I, and I just wanna tell you that it’s not the other who’s using this housing. It’s the people who we work with. It’s our neighbors. It’s people who are giving back into our community in robust ways, sometimes working in places that just don’t pay a lot.

Um, I was at one, the other site over there, the Colman site the other day, and lo and behold, it was a friend of mine who I’d worked with for years who was in the housing and she was a single mom with tears in her eyes. And she said, I’m so happy to see [00:14:00] you here. This is my fault. We couldn and see it. Um, and she was so proud of the space that they had out in front.

And I love the housing because it has this community set up that really allows people to connect. It’s not just about putting a basic four walls, but it’s thoughtful and it’s homey and it’s really practical. When I toured that particular site, I was really excited because as a single mom myself, I thought somebody really put in the detail and the heart to make this housing work for families so that they knew the way that this, this layout would work, would work really well for people.

So if I know that you are all connected, uh, connected and committed to this work as well, I’m thankful for your partnership. Um, I will continue working on every front, not just with money, which is very important. Um, I will, I will share with you that the first year I was committed to housing and I, I always will be and we happily voted to support.

Um, the housing trust fund, which is very important, but I learned that that did not include any funding [00:15:00] that first year for these types of projects. And it was important to me that we worked to include these types of projects the next year. So I personally worked to advocate for that with our budget chairs.

It’s something that I did with my own hand . So I want you to know that I do care about this very much because I know that it matters to people. Um, and that I’m committed to doing that work. The other thing I wanna tell you about is a couple of bills that I worked on because of my life as a social worker, I think a lot about, and especially with kids.

So I think a lot about, uh, what that, what homelessness looks like. Homelessness looks like for our kids. And sometimes it’s surprising because when people think about homelessness, they think about a tent under a bridge. And that’s a type of homelessness for sure. But there’s also the type of homelessness that our kids experience where they’re going from couch to couch to couch from an uncle’s house to a friend’s house.

Um, and those are the kids I worked with a lot personally, intensely. I, you know, when I talk about them, I have many names and faces that come to mind [00:16:00] and, uh, you know, I thought about them as we were, as we were working on what we could do with legislation to help those kids specifically. So one of the bills that IEM sponsored and we were able to pass was to target that exact, um, population.

And that means now if we have kids who are sleeping in places like a camping trailer or, um, don’t have a stable residence of their own, they qualify as homeless, which seems pretty sensical, doesn’t it? . Um, but that, that’s a really big deal because it means that they can now qualify for other services that will help buoy them into an equitable, equitable space so that they can get into Head Start, that they can be somewhere safe while we help with other resources to help their families and keep their families together safe and on the road to, to recovery And, um, Stability.

So I will continue to do this work so long as you give me the honor of allowing me to do it. And I am only here to tell you that I am with great gratitude that [00:17:00] we are partnering. I see the work that you’re doing. I appreciate you. There’s a lot of things we get to do in this work, but when I look out and see your faces on a Saturday like this and your tired bodies, I want you to know that I, I really appreciate you.

Um, keep going. It’s amazing what you’re doing. It matters to people and it matters to those families very much. Thank you so much for having me today.

Well, thank you very much. Uh, Rep rule. Good afternoon everybody. I’m not dressed quite as nicely as a representative rule is, as you can see. So I hope you apologize, uh, my attire here. But I enjoyed, uh, pulling some weeds today and doing some landscaping with, uh, with some of you. Some of you I’ve met before.

I, uh, I met some of you at the fundraiser event at the man, uh, back how many weeks ago was that? A month ago. [00:18:00] Thank you, Fred. And, uh, some of you I’ve met today for the first time, but I’m Simon Statik. I’m your state senator here in the 42nd Legislative district. Uh, I got appointed to the state senate in January, uh, after my predecessor passed away.

And, uh, my plan in life was not politics at this stage. Uh, I’m a bit younger, probably than the average politician, which you’ll meet. Uh, but I always did believe growing up on a farm and fairdale taking care of goats, horses, and chickens, that ordinary people can accomplish extraordinary things when they care about their community.

And that’s why it’s been so cool to come see, uh, this organization and all of the work that you do. You know, I, I remember, uh, as a kid, I’m sure many of you felt this way. Uh, you know, whenever you might go on a road trip or a vacation or whatever it was, I remember, you know, sometimes, uh, growing up my family, we would do like month long road trips in an, in an rv, right?

In a trailer. And even though it was always tons of fun, there was something, there was just something unparalleled to [00:19:00] the experience of getting to go back home, right? There was something special about, uh, opening the door and smelling every house kind of smell. You know what I’m talking about? Getting to go back to your home and seeing your bedroom, even if it was messy when you got back there and, and walking into your kitchen again because there was something special about having a place to go to, a place to sleep safely at, nice at, at night, uh, that that was meaningful to have a home.

That’s oftentimes what we, we mean when we talk about the American dream. It, it’s this idea that a young person is able to go on a housing continuum and ultimately own the home. It’s the dream for so many young people. It’s a dream for me personally, and that’s why this issue is something I’m so passionate about, uh, the honor of serving on the housing committee and the Washington State Senate.

Uh, but what I’ve said before is, you know, in some ways I feel like I’m living in a county that I can’t [00:20:00] even afford to live in, even though I represent this area. You know, the average cost of a home in Whatcom County is $650,000 in Bellingham, it’s about, it’s closer to about $750,000. You know, I want to be able to live that dream.

I want my kids to someday be able to rush back to their home knowing that it is a place that is safe. Uh, and, and there’s something, and all, all of you talked about before, there’s a value in ownership. You know, a value in actually, uh, owning property. It’s not only the heart I believe of, of some of the, uh, historic nature of our, of our country, the idea of property rights, but it also creates so much more dignity oftentimes.

And, you know, I was doing some research last night, uh, and the Habitat for Humanity in Seattle King and, uh, in King County talked a little bit about this because they say, and I think they’re correct, they said the reality of the disparity between Washington state’s support for rental shelter and supportive services, uh, for housing in [00:21:00] Washington’s support for home ownership is roughly 20 to one in favor of rentals, shelters, and support supportive services.

That is a massive racial and economic equity issue as well, because it ensures developers build only rentals and communities of color denying families opportunities to become homeowners, and build. And, you know, that’s a real part of the conversation I think we also know to address, which is the fact that when the state spends so much of its resources only on sort of those rental supportive services aspect, we ignore that part of accomplishing the American dream, which is geared towards being able to own a home someday.

Because if you’re able to own a home, that’s the greatest sign of being able to possess equity to pass on to your kids and being able to actually develop generational wealth. And that’s harder and harder when, as John correctly pointed out, uh, there’s always new taxes and new fees that come out of the Washington State legislature that seem to increase the costs and difficulties, [00:22:00] uh, and, and regulatory burdens involved in building homes.

According to the BIAW, which is a building organization, about 23.8% of all housing costs in the state of Washington are from permitting and licensing fees alone and the consequences of those delays. I mean, so it’s, it’s one of those things you can subsidize housing all you want, but unless you also address the regulatory burden that comes with every single new attack or law that gets passed, that’s going to continue to make it harder for all of us and for developers to be able to develop that equity and pass on to their children or, or their grandchildren someday.

And so that’s why I think we have to think seriously. And again, I’ve seen this in the housing committee a, about our approach to housing. We, we all the time talk about affordable housing and of course I think everybody wants affordable housing. Uh, somebody else worded it before to be in a way that I think makes sense, which is we also need to focus on abundant housing.

If we can think [00:23:00] of abundant housing as a model, I think that brings us a lot further along in that goal. What does that look like? Well, you know, first we have to remember, 72% of Washingtonians cannot afford a medium priced home accord as of December, 2021. So, in the state of Washington, every additional thousand dollars in the cost of a new home prices about 2,500 people out of the market.

So every bill, you know, that gets passed, uh, price, that, that increases those fees or those costs or those regulatory burdens. It’s not just that this goes to sort of the ether, the effect. It ends up having a direct consequence by pricing thousands of people out of their ability, their chance to live that dream and go towards home ownership.

And so I think we need to, uh, build up, I think we need to build out, I think we need to look at more density options in areas, especially, uh, urban areas like Bellingham, where we might have more of an [00:24:00] infrastructure to be able to do so. But I also think we need to expand, uh, the amount of land we’re able to build on, um, and, and be able to expand out into the county as well.

Uh, because the fact of the matter is that there’s a large desire as well for single family housing. Uh, for, for homeowners as well. And we can’t exclude those opportunities. And, you know, owning a home allows us to reduce rent costs. It provides more secure places for individuals and their families, and it ultimately allows more freedom in creating personal space.

And so, you know, I think there’s a lot of ways we could do that. I think we need to address the permitting issues that do oftentimes get caused when we have regulations like the Birth Management Act, which sometimes are, are very confusing for our, uh, permits and for our cities that conflict with something like the Shoreline Management Act and then, you know, there’s no real hierarchy.

And so it makes it very, very difficult oftentimes for cities to know how to zone and allow for building. And so I think there’s a lot of common sense areas that we can work in a bipartisan fashion to address so that people can live that dream [00:25:00] someday. Um, and I think we can expand opportunities to do that.

I think we can create, uh, home ownership opportunities and, uh, reduce especially taxes for those that are trying to climb up that housing. And there, there’s progress that’s being made in this. Um, and so, you know, happy to jump into the details, I suppose, if there are any questions. But, um, you know, overall I just say I think a big emphasis needs to be to exactly what, what John talked about, that we can, we can talk all day long about expanding opportunities for housing, but when the costs just associated from essentially doing business in the state of Washington under, uh, under the government through taxes and licensing fees, that’s only gonna make things more and more difficult.

And so, uh, that’s why this is a huge priority. Again, I’m somebody who grew up in Whatcom County. I love it here. I want to be able to own a home here. I wanna be able to raise kids here. I want to be able to raise kids here. But it seems like it’s getting more and more difficult and that has to end.

Uh, and so I [00:26:00] think that dream that all of us have, uh, of being able to own a home is not only a great way for us to bring equality into our discussion, but it’s a great way to pass on equity too. Our kids, our grandkids, and to make Whatcom County a more fair place that works for all. So, uh, with that being said, I will pass on to whoever the next person is, but uh, thank you all again so much.

And, uh, I don’t know that I’m gonna be able to, to stick around afterwards to, to clean up, but I think some, some people are. So thank you for, uh, enduring my bad gardening skills as well this morning to those of you that were with me. 

Take care everyone. Thank you.

Thank you. And uh, I did at least change my pants and my shoes cause oh my gosh, my toes were so full of dirt cause I just sign him and he talks down. But he did a good job cuz I kept saying, uh, put your young back into it cuz mine isn’t gonna hold up. So , [00:27:00] we work very well together and I appreciate the opportunity.

Uh, today to come down and, uh, speak with you and see how this community working together, uh, is so successful in what you’re doing. Um, I love communities such as this, where you’re working together to build the community and you’re working with the people who are going to be a benefit of this community because when you work with people and you see the, uh, love from the community and the support from the community, it is really, um, what, what people need to really feel a part of something.

And that’s what this does. Um, I’ve always been a big believer in the hand up not handout model. And that’s what this is. You’re helping them get where they need to be. Um, I’ve been working as a disaster case manager with the flood survivors through the welcome Long Term Recovery Group and. Uh, that is really a part of what I’m supposed to be [00:28:00] doing, as I’m walking alongside them.

I’m not doing the work for them. I’m their encourager. When they’re down, I’m helping them, uh, sometimes, but it’s more about showing them how to do it so they gain the confidence and knowledge that they can do it, and communities and programs such as This is why I think this is such a successful program.

So I’m gonna, um, a little bit about me. You might not all know me. I grew up here in Whatcom County, uh, Dairy Farms, south of Linden. And, uh, my parents raised 11 of us on that farm. Um, they needed more workers, so they just kept having us. Um, but, uh, my father actually grew up in Holland and um, and immigrated here in 53.

And the primary reason for coming here was land ownership. He wanted to have a dairy farm and in Holland, he would never get there because of the lack of land. And so they moved their [00:29:00] whole family here to pursue my father’s goal of owning a dairy farm. And he was able to have that goal and it was amazing.

Um, and so the goal is for people to be able to own a home specifically because they, it is the generational wealth because you could pass it on to your children and that is what you guys are doing here. But it is very difficult, um, when I think about what I’m running for and where I’m, what can I do at the level, um, at that level.

And he’s, uh, John touched on it and it’s the permitting fees. When I look at the amount of money it costs before you even, uh, put the first shovel in the ground, we need to do better. And, uh, the Growth Management Act that Senator says it touched Sean is a huge part of that. And they’ve added several others, Like the wetland, or not the wetlands, the CIPA and other things to that Growth Management Act.

So there needs to be a major [00:30:00] overhaul of that, uh, to, because it was created in the nineties, a lot has changed and we need to update that to lessen those permit fees so that people can have that dream of home ownership. I know there’s been several, um, uh, proposals for even more fees that could raise the cost of permitting fees, even upwards of $20,000 more.

And that’s unaffordable. And that, just speaking to the numbers that Senator Su, uh, spoke about a thousand dollars, uh, additional, it, it, um, makes another 2000 people unable to afford that home. And so that definitely is something, I know a lot of reasons are environmental protection acts, but we raise a generation that are very conscientious of the environment.

And I think if we give people a little more freedom, To do it right, an encouragement to do it right. Uh, we don’t need to be charging so much for that. And so, uh, I am brand new on the housing, uh, thing, although my [00:31:00] dad after farming went into construction and contracting. So I know how to swing a hammer pretty good.

And I’m pretty good with the sole. But, um, uh, as far as that, uh, but I will be working in law enforcement. That’s my background. I was a bell police officer here for 25 years, and what I was very good at is finding the people, um, that had the right knowledge for whatever I was investigating. I had a, um, serial rapist that I was trying to track down and solve that case.

I talked to detectives in LA, the FBI on the West Coast, and I even had a two hour, hour consult with the behavioral health, basically criminal minds, um, people in Quantico when I’ve tried. So I know how to find the right people who have the right answers when I don’t have the right answers. And that’s what I’ll do, uh, for you in Olympia.

I go and I find the right people, but some of these right people that I would be working with are in this room. John is a wealth of knowledge of what you guys need [00:32:00] to be successful in this program. And you, you have more knowledge than I will ever have and I would look for you guys as leaders in this community to help me do the right things for you in Olympia.

And so that is my promise, uh, to you, is to work with the people that have the right tools so that we can get the job done right the first time. So, um, I think you talked about administration, complicator reduce. So I’m trying to go through this, uh, little cost capital. You know, again, John will be coming to you on whatever is, would work best for you guys as well.

And, uh, I am, uh, endorsed by the Housing Affordability Council and so. Uh, I have, uh, people of resources in that arena that will help walk alongside me, make sure that we get it done right. So, thank you so much. And I’ll stand by or I’ll be around after if you have any further questions. Thank you.

Thank you.

I’m  Dan Johnson running for Washington State House of Representatives position two. Uh, Tawsha is running for position one, so we would be side by side in the house.

Excuse me. I would like to say, first of all, thanks for the opportunity to be out here today and to, to help with such a great program. I, I enjoy it. In fact, I’m staying here for the afternoon as well [00:34:00] with the tractor, and we’re gonna sling some, uh, buckets full of dirt around. So, pretty excited about that.

There’s a couple things that are, uh, that I was raised on, I guess, and that is the satisfaction of a job well done and having somewhere to lay your head at night. And I think that, if I understand correctly, the concept of Habitat for Humanity is that the folks that are moving in also contribute to the building of their homes. Is that still how this works? Right. So you could achieve both of those things. Through this program is the satisfaction of a job well done by helping with the building of, of what you’re gonna call your home one day. And you will have seen it grow just like when you are raising a family and you can watch your children grow in your, in your family as it grows, so does your home.

[00:35:00] And it, it’s just, it’s a neat thing to be a part of. And I say that because I’ve, I’ve only lived in one house and I was fortunate that in 2003 we were able to build, and the only house I’ve ever lived in is one that I helped build as  well. Um, my friend was a general contractor and so I would come out after work and help him, but I got to see it every step of the way.

And that’s tremendous when you’re walking around and you can think of the bones of your house and know where like every pipe and outlets and all that stuff that’s in there. It’s pretty interesting to me to see. Everybody should have somewhere to rest their head at night. They should have a place to call home.

And I think that I’m preaching to the choir here. I think we can all, uh, agree with that. What are some of the issues that we’re, we’re dealing with, with the, the, the building right now and yeah, it’s something that’s been [00:36:00] touched on. It’s affordability, availability, inflation permitting, fees, regulation, land use, all of those things that come into play.

And as was mentioned before, uh, the Growth Management Act, which has 13 main principles in it. And as, uh, Tosha had mentioned a few minutes ago, it was built in or created in 1990. And it’s time to have that re-looked at, reassessed and reevaluated and see as we’ve evolved in the last, what, 32 years, how we can also make that more applicable to what we’re looking at today.

As the ground we have to work with in the environments we have to work with. And so to talk about what we can do to help fix. Yeah. Looking at the gma, uh, affordability and availability is something at the state level that we can do is work with the, bringing the money back into the district to help with infrastructure in some of the areas that are trying to expand.[00:37:00] 

And as people are moving out of Bellingham and want to get into more of your remote areas, like, you know, Blaine, Ferndale, Ierson, Sue, Mass, and some of those areas, and in Eastern Walken County, right in Maple Falls and Kendall areas, I’ve met with some of the small town mayors and the thing we keep talking about is the infrastructure dollars, the, the people are coming and maybe the land is there and it’s usable, but it’s water, sewer power, broadband, internet, your basics.

That you need when you put in a community and a development. But then also it’s what resources do they have around there as far as, um, is there a grocery store? Is there, uh, a re refuse, maybe a transfer station or something like that? So we were out in the Maple Falls area last week, I think it was, and that was something that I think would be huge for that community out there is to have in [00:38:00] a, a spot where they can take their trash, right, instead of running all the way to the west end of the county out in Ferndale, and then RDS can figure out a way to get it from point A to point B.

But it seems like that it’s the infrastructure when you’re, when you’re building the community, everybody here today is building the community with, you know, four walls, a roof and a floor. And then from the state level, we’re gonna look at what we can do to help get the rest of that in place. So the, the home is the last thing we have to do that all the services and everything is, is all lined up.

Uh, let’s see, access to low cost capital. Everything that I’ve been led to believe with Habitat through Humanity is, it’s a joint venture between the homeowner and habitat and to where everybody’s putting a little bit into it. And when you talk about access to [00:39:00] capital, the financial part of my brain from being in business for so long kind of kicks off.

And that’s something to where the homeowners themselves, right? It’s where you can get a good interest rate on capital or you know, what are your spending habits? What does your credit score look like? And all of those things that help when somebody wants to loan you money. And then you can get, you know, a loan to get the best interest on that loan and to get that capital to make it work the best for you.

Also, you as the person that’s wanting that, uh, that low cost capital have to do your part in, you know, maintaining current on all your bills and credit cards and, you know, uh, the, the available credit, all the nuances that come with having a good credit score and those things which will help people look at you as a better risk when they do want to loan your money.

So I don’t want to turn this into like a financial seminar or anything and just, that’s [00:40:00] one of the things I look at and, you know, it’s budgeting overall. It’s just making sure you know how much money you have in the bank, how much is going out each month, how much is coming in each amount, and then using it to the, the, the best you can and, and stretch those pens sometimes and, uh, making those ends meet.

And you know, I guess overall it’s, uh, what do folks do with the money that they do have and something that. If, if you’re, if you’re in a position where you’re not super high and earning, then it’s a matter of budgeting and, and all of the things that I just mentioned. So I, I’ll try not to be redundant and stay on that.

At the end of the day, we need to look at reducing the building costs, but then bigger picture, we also need to look at reducing material costs, building costs, permanent fees, grounds, the infrastructure, the property [00:41:00] taxes, all of the things that come into home ownership. And Am I at nine minutes? Sorry.

Sorry, you got up. I didn’t want to get poked with a stick. Okay. Uh, yeah. And so property taxes is another thing that in government we’d be able to, uh, probably work on and look at. I think that, uh, when I was in Sumas, somebody was just telling me that their property taxes a couple weeks ago, they just got their new assessment.

It went up over 30%. Sumas was under water 12 months ago. How in the heck can you, as an assessor say that that house is worth more now than it was a year ago, when it was, when it was flooded? And so there’s some things that need to be looked at. And I, I don’t think anybody’s arguing that. It’s just, who’s gonna look at ’em?

How hard are they gonna look at ’em? And how are we gonna resolve that issue? Because we can all say, we can identify the problem. It’s how we’re gonna fix the problem. And, and those are some of the things that need to be fixed as well. I will be, as I said before, I’ll be here this [00:42:00] afternoon, uh, also helping out.

So if anybody has any questions, I’ll be available for them to thank you again, everybody, for having us today.

Thank you. Oh my gosh. Thank you so much for letting me join you today. Um, and it was every place I’ve lived, I’ve always tried to do a Habitat project or some sort of, um, land test project. Cause I love working with power tools, but I’m not actually handy. Um, so I did one, actually the most exotic one. I think I told a few of you. I did one in Botswana. I took a group of high school students and a study abroad trip and we did the cement foundation and then cinder blocks and a tin roof. Um, and if you saw someone living in a house like that in America, you’d be horrified.

Um, and you’d be like, Well, where’s your insulation? Where’s your electricity? Everyone was using gas and propane. Um, but it was a home. And I think we need more, maybe not, um, no insulation and allinder block and tin roofs, but we need more types of homes. I think that’s one of the biggest problems that we’re facing right now is, you know, years ago we decided that everyone needed half an acre in a single family home.And we haven’t updated that to the fact that lives are changing. Families look different. I think they always look different. We just didn’t acknowledge it. Um, and that young people are having a really hard time getting a start right now. 

So, um, I live in the letter streets we bought a few years ago, right at their right time for about $300,000.And it’s more than double that now. I joke with my husband that we should have just not worked. We should just bought two, um, would’ve made just as much money. Um, so I have, you know, two, three jobs, whatever you wanna call it, this politics job. Um, the ice of land probably isn’t going down. 

Um, but what we can do is we can use our land more efficiently.We can allow people to build duplexes in more neighborhoods and triplexes. And I will tell you in the Lettered Streets I can walk to, I counted the number of breweries. The other day I saw 15 , um, . And this is two beers a month, girl, a few of them even with toddlers that we can walk to. And one of the reasons that you’re able to do that is because I have so many wonderful neighbors in so many different types of homes.

So zoned single family. My home would not be legal to build today because of the setbacks on, We live right off of Cornwall. Um, and so we’re trying to add an addition and we have to put some funny angles in because of these setbacks that do not, I think contribute to the value of our neighborhood.Our neighborhood is lovely. People come in from Ferndale to walk around it and look at the gardens and the dahlias. Um, I knew it was the right place when I saw the stop sign was yarn bombed. I was like, these are my people, um, . And so what we can do in the Lettered Streets is we can allow people to build six-plexes and build things like what we were working on today.

Although what I helped out was digging a hole for the little library. Um, lots of our little libraries. Um, and we can allow people to build garden cottages. And I think that’s the way that we’ve gotta go forward. And I will tell you, I think the city process is maybe a little broken. The city council members hear from the people who are worried about a duplex moving in next door, but they don’t hear from all the young people that are struggling to find housing.

And we have to make it easier to build more, and especially build in cities. I’m, uh, we have to build out and build up a little bit. I think especially building up, that’s where the jobs are, that’s where people wanna live. It’s where the infrastructure already exists. It’s also where it’s an environmental solution as well.

And so we have to wrap all these things together and figure out how to do this. Last session, I had a bill that was the first bill of its kind that made it through the house. We know we need to do this work. I teach urban economics at Western, and when I teach, I don’t put politics into the office. Um, but all my students wanna see this movement forward.

They’re energized on this. Um, and they are really upset that our generation has not done this for yet, um, because they want to be part of these communities. So, um, where was I going with this? I think I was gonna say, um, the, the, the students are super housing focused and I would love to see more fourplexes in the letter streets, more six plexes in the lettered streets.

It’s right next to downtown and you can walk almost everywhere. And I always thought that that has added to my community. I live across the street from a 16 complex apartment complex. It’s low income, and they’re absolutely lovely neighbors. On Christmas day, after you open up all the presents with the kids, um, my family lives kind of far away.So we go out and we, I share cookies with people on the street. And, and we talk to each other and we wish each other Merry Christmas and have a lovely day. And I’m so much richer because of my amazing neighbors that live near me in that community. Um, what were the other questions? It was so housing affordability, access to capital, um, policy priority.

So I, I, um, I’m kind of an accidental politician. I never thought I’d run for office, just nobody else was gonna do it. And I believe democracy is about choices. One of the reasons I decided to run for state senate is I felt like we needed to fix our broken housing market. And a big part of that is looking at the zoning, looking at the regulations, looking at ways of how can the government get out of the way of allowing these private market solutions to still protect all the things that we care about.

I still don’t want people building in the floodway. I still wanna make sure that we have viable agriculture 

in Whatcom County and we have enough land and farm production. I still worry about people moving out to the forest. Where they’re much more higher risk for wildfire. But we have to be able to figure out how do we balance this environmental work and the need for housing.

Um, because I think building more housing in the city is an environmental solution. So one of the ideas that I had a bill last session that again, was that’s what I was going, I was the only, um, it was the first time we ever had something that made it through the house. It died in a Senate, but it would’ve said every single family home, if you’re in a city with some exceptions for environmentally sensitive lands on the size of the lot, if you, um, have that single family home, you were allowed an attached in the detached accessory dwelling unit in every city, right?

Like that would’ve been enormous. These are things that are relatively cheap to build. They end up being naturally affordable. They also help you stay in your home. If you’re living in the main home, now you can rent out the little ADU or the garden. My husband and I have been talking about adding a room to our house, and one of the things we wanna do is right now we have two boys that take up a lot of space, especially with their toys and they’re just getting bigger, right?

Um, but we know eventually we hope they’re gonna leave us, start their own families, and we wanna make sure that our house can be adjusted so that if we wanna live on the first floor, maybe we can have a caretaker live up on the second floor so that it’s dividable or a viewable. And I think that’s the kind of thing that we wanna make sure, is that you have things that allow you to age in place, which is one of the reasons that AARP we, who you don’t usually think of as a housing advocate, were excited about this bill.They were a huge person that was helping us move it forward. 

Um, going forward, one of the, I don’t think ADUs are gonna solve the world, but they’re the first step. Um, they’ll create some housing and I don’t think there is just one solution. With housing. We need the habitat for humanities. We need the Kulshan land trust.We need the Mercy Housing and the affordable housing. 

We also need, um, private market solutions. We even need the expensive condos because when people move into those expensive condos, those are people that aren’t bidding up homes elsewhere, right? We have to think about this as an equilibrium and I think there is a state reason to do that.And that’s because when Seattle doesn’t build enough, it’s generating a lot of jobs. A lot of people wanna work there and what they do is they export their housing problems to the next city and to the next city and the next city. And I think Bellingham Fa failure to build enough housing, which started about 10 years ago, has resulted in higher prices.

And Ferndale, it’s resulted in people moving out for flood plains. I have friends that were flooded out and I didn’t even know they lived in Jefferson, um, because they spend so much of their time driving back and forth and com, their community is in Walk in Ingham. Um, so there is a reason to do this at the state level.

Um, one of the things that I’d also like to see is, I’d like to make. Building homes and being kind of a mini developer, more accessible to more people. So one of the ideas I had was, could we create a program once we legalize ADUs everywhere, um, where the, if you wanna borrow money to build an au it’s really difficult because, um, the accessor will tell you, the appraisers tell you it’s not gonna add enough value.

So unless you already have that equity, you don’t have that access to capital will, the state could guarantee some of these loans. I’ve been working with a housing finance commission to look into, could we get the state to guarantee these loans? Um, then WECU or someone else could administer those loans.

And if we’re using state resource, there has to be a state purpose. So the idea would be, we’ll help you loan the money to get access to this capital to build that you use in your backyard. But the deal is, during the term with that mortgage, you would have to rent it out to someone who’s otherwise income eligible, right?

So I think of this as a decentralized housing project where we get a whole bunch of units built around Whatcom County and make it really easy for regular people to be part of this solution. Um, we’re still working on pieces that, it’s kind of a pie in the sky, but I have been talking to city council members about making Aus easier to build by having a pre-approved plan so that maybe we could build it with a modular home company in Ferndale.

So all you have to do is say, Yeah, I wanna do this. And we have some people that come in, we know the permitting, they know how it works, and we’re able to pop them in and get some housing debt. Was that my, my minutes? One minute. Awesome. Um, what else do I need to talk about Access to capital. I love talking about access to capital debt.

It’s huge. Um, what resources? Um, one of the things that I’d like to do is we spend about 400 million into affordable housing, which is a huge commitment. That’s enormous. Um, but you look at the size and you look at the problem. So we’re missing about 150, 270,000 homes statewide is what the need is, which is a lot.Um, if you look at what it costs to build something like Eleanor Place, I just, I counted out the amount of money that they’ve got to build it and then divide it by the number of units. It’s about $350,000 a unit. If we build it all the affordable housing, just in affordable housing. That way we’re not gonna get there unless we’re willing to see really big tax increases, which I don’t think we’re willing to.

It’s gotta take private market solutions. And so innovating, making sure that we’re able to remove as many barriers as we can while still protecting the things that are important to us. That’s what I wanna spend the next four years figuring out regulation by regulation. How do we get more homes built? And I want you all to be my partners in this. So thank you.




Skip to content