Dean Fearing, Executive Director
141 homes for ownership; 2 rentals; 1 acre farmland
4 homes under construction
56 homes in the pipeline to be built in the next 1-3 years
50+ homes in the pipeline to be built in 5 years or longer
How have you worked with local government to create policies that support affordable housing?
Kulshan Community Land Trust (KCLT) gets a lot of support from Whatcom County and many of its cities and small towns. The city of Bellingham passed a voter-approved levy which helps fund affordable homeownership projects. Bellingham also created an incentive for affordable housing which gives a 50% density bonus for projects in which 51% of the homes are permanently affordable. Bellingham prioritizes giving surplus property to nonprofit housing developers and gave a single-family lot to Kulshan to develop. We are looking at other land to acquire via the surplus program.
Whatcom County allows the use of Economic Development Investment (EDI) funds, collected via sale tax, for paying permits and fees via a 1% loan amortized over 50 years. And just this year, the county created a loan fund with EDI funds to pay for infrastructure costs. Ten percent of this loan can convert to a grant if 25% of the development is permanently affordable to families at or below 120% area median income (AMI).
The city of Blaine is exploring giving two parcels of land to KCLT for development. This will add 37-47 homes to our pipeline.
KCLT has a robust advocacy committee made up of staff, board, and members of our community. This committee actively engages local elected officials and works to create policy to make affordable housing development easier. The Whatcom Housing Alliance is another resource for advocating for housing policy and raising awareness around affordable housing issues. KCLT was a founding member and actively participates in this organization.
However, even with this government support, KCLT relies heavily on donations. Individual donations and business support make up roughly a third of our budget.
Describe some of the challenges you face in expanding your community land trust and strategies you’ve developed to address them.
As we add land to our pipeline, we are concerned about availability of state funding and other subsidy funding. We are working on a model of mixed incomes with a goal of having higher-priced, higher-AMI homes help cover the cost of lower-priced, lower-AMI homes.
What are your plans for the future? What does success look like?
In 2022 KCLT embarked on a bold plan to grow organizational capacity so that we can develop more homes and serve more families and individuals in our community. We are working with multiple consultants to strengthen integral policies and procedures, assess organizational needs for staffing, and creating a plan and vision to build 25 or more homes each year. A key piece of this strategy is holding land for development, and KCLT has done a great job securing land for our pipeline. KCLT will continue to strive to positively impact the local housing market with a goal of 5% or more of all homes in Whatcom County being permanently affordable to households earning at or below 120% AMI.