Nonprofits and businesses throughout the county have partnered to build additional affordable housing in Bellingham.
The Telegraph Road Townhomes project was made possible by the partnerships between the Kulshan Community Land Trust, Habitat for Humanity of Whatcom County and the Whatcom Community Foundation Threshold Fund.
In addition, numerous local businesses and organizations have rallied around the project to provide donations and volunteer hours.
Located at 1050 Telegraph Road, the new townhome project is on track to welcome it’s first eight families this spring.
Among some of the first homeowners at Telegraph are a single mom with four teenagers, a hospital employee, a library employee and a young man with autism, homeownership program director for KulshanCLT, Nikki Quinn said.
“Homeownership, especially in our community, is so competitive,” Quinn said. “There are people who make our city run, who make our city beautiful and wonderful, who need a place to live.”
The first eight units of the Telegraph Townhomes are expected to be completed in March of 2020. The partnership is building 23 homes in phase one of construction and phase two is being held for future development.
“The whole idea of the project is more about building community and Habitats main existence is elevating the poor out of poverty forever, and the home and the equity you build in a home is the biggest tool in that toolbox,” executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Whatcom County, John Moon said.
“Our vision is providing a project to the missing middle which is going to enable us to build more homes in the future for the most economically vulnerable and allow transitional housing programs in the community to find alternatives,” Moon said.
Innovative financing solutions for the project enables Habitat to pass savings onto future homeowners. By partnering with the Whatcom Community Foundation and Whatcom Educational Credit Union, Habitat was able to save tens of thousands of dollars in interest charges.
Designed as a reusable pool of funding and to reduce the expense of borrowing for construction loans for affordable housing providers like Habitat and KulshanCLT; the WCF Threshold Fund drastically increases the number of affordable units being built.
“This fund will exponentially accelerate the number of affordable homes that Habitat and KulshanCLT can bring to market—from 2 to 3 per year, on average, to more than 50 over a few years,” president and CEO of WCF, Mauri Ingram said in an email.
The prices for units in phase one will serve those who are 30-80% area median income range.
We hope to build homes for the 81-120% AMI range at future projects because that need is growing, Quinn said.
Mortgages for the two-to-three bedroom townhomes will be between $100,000 to $175,000 with some monthly payments as low as $350.
“With the support of Kulshan CLT and our community partners, these households will gain stability and the opportunity to leave behind a paycheck-to-paycheck lifestyle,” executive director of KulshanCLT, Dean Fearing said in an email. “Their children will stay in the same school district longer, they’ll live closer to their work, and they’ll build stronger connections with neighbors and local businesses.”
The townhomes will be kept affordable into the future by exceeding energy-efficient standards. This was made possible by partnering with the Building Performance center, an Opportunity Council program, Moon said.
The savings on heating and maintenance are propelled by net-zero-ready and solar-ready homes. This allows energy bills for the homeowner to be as low as $25 a month.
The townhomes were designed by RMC Architects and are intended to promote ideals of a connected community neighborhood. The design incorporates access to the Bellingham trail system and transit lines. Residents will also have shared front porch space, shared parking and community bike racks.
Local businesses have contributed to the project in a variety of ways. Topside Roofing and GAF Roofing have provided materials and labor. Bellingham Bay Builders have donated labor at the Telegraph site.
Crews from A-1 Builders have donated upwards of 300 hours at the Telegraph site and worked to install exterior insulation, exterior doors, windows, exterior trim, preparation for siding, waterproofing and redesign for the decks.
“Part of our bylaws and company policy is that we donated at least 10% of our profits to community efforts annually and it’s usually considerably more,” A-1 Builders general manager, Patrick Martin said in an email. “Telegraph Townhomes is a great opportunity for us to do what we do best and demonstrate our values and our skills for these families. Helping KulshanCLT and Habitat build these homes to Passive House standards is also a chance for us to give back while also learning more through the experience.”
Over the past year Habitat for Humanity of Whatcom County has united a wide range of volunteer teams to help at the site. This included volunteer hours from groups at Wells Fargo, People’s Bank, Whatcom Educational Credit Union and Banner Bank.
Volunteers from Carpenters Local Union 70 and Lettered Streets Covenant Church provided trimming of doors. Zervas Law sponsored a Women Build day at the site and Ecotech Solar presented workshops where for each home solar system sold, one solar panel will be donated to the Telegraph site.
“This will have a profound impact on the community as a whole,” Moon said.