The 2023 Washington State Legislative Session recently passed missing middle housing legislation, which legalized the building of a variety of homes in all zones across Washington State. What does this mean for Whatcom County? And do we even need it?  

As Bellingham & Whatcom County grow, so too does our need for housing. And Whatcom County is growing for a reason – people love the quality of life that this place can cultivate, provided you can find safe, affordable housing. At the heart of our communities are our unique neighborhoods and the people living in them.  

This place we love is facing a housing crisis. We’re not building enough homes to house all the people moving here. Scarcity of housing is driving up the cost of existing housing, and some of those who already live here can’t afford it and must leave. Not only that, but the cost of housing is making it more difficult for local businesses to pay their employees enough to cover their mortgages and rent. The most vulnerable of our community members are being pushed onto our streets.  

We can’t pretend there’s not a problem – there is. But there are also solutions to that problem. And while the housing crisis is multifaceted and requires a multifaceted approach, study after study shows that one of the most effective ways to alleviate this crisis is to build more homes that allow a greater diversity of housing options in our neighborhoods.  

Middle Housing is essential to creating affordable homes for those that live and work here. What is Middle Housing? It’s a range of housing types that exist between single family homes and large apartment buildings – including duplexes, triplexes, row houses, ADUs, and townhomes.  

These kinds of homes create gentle density and reduce sprawl, allowing us to accommodate the growth of our community while still cultivating the neighborhoods we love. With the recent passing of important state housing legislation, it is now legal to build more of these homes in Bellingham & Whatcom County – and throughout Washington State.  

Sustainable Connections, the founder, key member, and staff to the Whatcom Housing Alliance, helped to advance this legislation through their series of educational events, technical research, local and state housing advocacy.  

As Scott Pelton, Whatcom Housing Alliance Program Manager, says, “Once adopted locally, middle housing legislation will be legal in all housing zones. This will be a significant tool to help Bellingham build a more affordable future.” 

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