By Isaac Bonnell
Kulshan Community Land Trust (CLT) is in the process of designing a 20-home affordable housing project on two acres in the Birchwood Neighborhood, similar to its Matthei Place project in Fairhaven, which was completed in 2008.
The first home, an energy-efficient, small-footprint house designed by Cascade Joinery, could break ground this fall, said Kulshan CLT director Dean Fearing.
Kulshan CLT has been slowly purchasing properties along Lafayette Street and West Indiana Street in anticipation of this development. The project gained momentum after the Bellingham City Council voted June 21 to vacate undeveloped portions of the two streets to promote the creation of more affordable housing.
“That street vacation was a big piece that allowed us to start working on more concrete plans,” Fearing said. “That also allows us to reach the density we’re hoping to get, which is around 10 homes per acre.”
Construction of the Indiana Lafayette Homes, as the project is being called, could take a few years, depending on funding, Fearing said. The nonprofit is planning to develop the homes in two phases, with about 10 homes in each phase.
So far, the group has chosen an architect and is meeting with stakeholders in the neighborhood to develop a master plan for the site, located on a bluff overlooking Squalicum Creek Park.
While many of the details still need to be worked out, the development will be similar to Matthei Place in that there will be single family homes, shared green space and clustered parking, Fearing said. It will also feel more spread out than Matthei Place, which has 14 homes on about one acre of land.
One of the goals with this development is to build energy-efficient homes that are also affordable.
“The trick, of course, is building homes that are affordable to our buyers, and anytime you add energy efficient pieces, it brings the cost up,” Fearing said.
The home that Cascade Joinery has designed should fit the bill, said Jim Hassi, marketing manager for Cascade Joinery. At about 1,200 square feet, the two-story home has a small footprint and extra insulation, thus reducing utility costs.
“It’s designed to be very green and very energy efficient,” Hassi said. “This is the first time we’ve designed something for a land trust, but we’ve got pretty extensive experience designing smaller, energy-efficient houses for other clients.”