Rental housing shortage looming

By Mike Kent

While it may not be obvious yet, we are on a path that spells bad news for tenants. With Birch Bay and Blaine just a 30-minute drive from Bellingham and gas prices at moderate levels, it’s only a matter of time before locals will find themselves competing for housing with Bellinghamsters.

Currently, Bellingham is experiencing a rental housing crisis with near zero vacancy rates in all categories including apartments, condos and houses. Making matters worse, landlords know they are squarely in control and rents are soaring on the simple economic principle of supply and demand. Properties that rented a year or two ago for $800 per month are now commanding $1,200 a month and climbing.

The entry-level price in Bellingham for a room and shared bathroom down the hallway is now $400. The situation will only get worse until more apartments are built, and few are in the works.

These dynamics leave tenants no choice but to venture north in increasing numbers to our community to seek housing opportunities. This trend has already started and will continue, as Bellingham has little in the pipeline to fulfill tenants’ needs. Most of the projects are restricted to low-income and assisted-living clients, leaving others who want a nice place to call home either out of luck or commuting up and down I-5 from places like Birch Bay and Blaine.

Those currently renting would be well advised to extend their leases as soon as possible and convince their landlord that they are a model tenant and deserve a fair rent rate in return. If you are considering moving into Bellingham, make sure you have a place to go prior to giving notice that you’re leaving or you could find yourself panicking for an address.

How scary is the shortage? It is now commonplace that renters will be lined up at property management firms on Monday mornings especially near month’s end waiting for the doors to open, desperately trying to find a place to rent only to hear the discouraging news that their name will only be added to a list. This is the tightest rental market in more than two decades, and comes at the same time home purchases by younger buyers is low as a result of the fall in the home resale market beginning in 2007.

Even though confidence in home ownership may be bruised as a result of the last several years, know that rents are headed much higher and it may be time to revisit the advantages of owning and paying for your own address instead of your landlord’s.

For those who wait to enter the more secure and stable world of home ownership know costs will escalate there as well due to declining supply and increasing demand.

  1. Martin L Bring July 13, 2015, 3:15 am

    54% of B’hamsters rent. This is the new norm for millions of Americans who have essentially become modern day land serfs, renting and paying someone else’s mortgage. Today’s landlords collect as much as 1/3 to 1/2 of their tenant’s incomes. Thus, having made the conscious decision to live off others, landlords have become one of America’s biggest success stories.

    Alas, there is a shortage of landlords! And though a landlord is merely a leech with a deed, we need new ones to keep the current ones from taking even more of our meager pay…

    Rather pitiful, isn’t it?

  2. Martin L Bring – “Landlords is merely a leach with a deed”….HA HA HA HA….spoken like someone who’s never built anything and has a bloated sense of entitlement. Who do you think owes someone else a place to live? Who do you think is obligated to drop several hundred thousand dollars on their first duplex with a large mortgage and then rent it for less than the mortgage so they can subsidize tenants? No one, that’s who. Housing in Norther WA is CHEAP compared to other places in the country that are anywhere near a coastline. If you can’t afford housing, go make more money. Get off your ass and learn a skill or provide a service someone will pay for and stop whining about how your problems are the result of others who have figured out how not to fail. And don’t give us any excuses about how hard it is and how things are unfair. Welcome to your life, figure it out, work your ass off and maybe you can become one of those “leeches” and give away your resources to those poor unfortunate souls you so sympathize with.


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