Friday, August 17, 2007

Who's "Faulting the Kids"?

A reader yesterday wrote the following.

"Don't fault the kids. Blame the landlords. Bellingham has over 50% rentals....that makes the market quite competitive. Most of the people that has (sic) or will comment on this blog probably at one time in their lives has (sic) rented a room in a single family home - be it for college or just having a place to stay once you left your parents home. If it was OK then why is it not now? If it was OK for you why not for the current bunch of young adults?

Look, we live in a college town. This kind of thing has been around since before you were even here - be it born here or moved here. It is a by-product of the scolastic (sic) envionrment (sic). Remember a lot of students and some young adults cannot afford their own place and need to rent a room to live. Are you suggesting they sleep in the woods? The best thing you can do is talk to the kids and get them to mellow out after hours. Remember they will be the ones runnig (sic) the country when they are older and you a (sic) just old. Hopefully they will be more simpathetic (sic) to the plight of the young than you are."

Dear Reader,

If you read carefully my first post, you will discover that I did not at all "fault the kids." I said that, given the circumstances, the young adults (not kids) make the obvious, economically viable choice, which is to rent a house as a group. The issue is not about "renting a room" in a home. The issue is about more than three adults occupying a single family dwelling in violation of the Bellingham Municipal Code (20.08.020) which reads:

F. 1. Family: One or more persons related by blood, marriage, or adoption, or not more than 3 unrelated persons, living together within a single dwelling unit. For purposes of this definition children with familial status within the meaning of Title 42 United States Code, Section 3602(k) and individuals with disabilities within the meaning of Title 42 United States Code, Section 3602(h) will not be counted as unrelated persons. "Adult family homes," as defined by RCW 70.128.175, are included within the definition of "family." Facilities housing individuals who are incarcerated as the result of a conviction or other court order shall not be included within this definition.

If you have more than three unrelated people in a single family dwelling, it becomes a rooming house. Again, I refer you to the Bellingham Municipal Code (20.08.020) :

15. Boarding and Rooming House: A structure used for the purpose of providing lodging or lodging and meals, for persons other than those under the "family" definition. This term includes dormitories, cooperative housing and similar establishments but does not include hotels, motels, medical care facilities or bed and breakfast facilities.

Now do I blame the landlords? You betcha! Some are worse than others but the bottom line is that the provisions of the city code are violated time and time again with impunity. I have had as many as four of these rooming houses on my street, consisting of 12 homes, in the past 5 years. Moreover, I blame the city officials and the city council for not upholding the laws that they have sworn to execute or enact respectively.

And now a word about the students. I like the students. They come to my home for dinners and BBQs. I work at WWU sporting events. I am a member of the Campus Community Coalition. I have attended all the Let's Talk Forums to discuss just these issues you find in this blog. You may find it surprising, but I am involved with student life in this city. I certainly am concerned about their "plight." I want them to have affordable, decent housing. Living in a dilapidated home with 5 others is not an ideal. These young adults are at the mercy of the landlords as there is no control over single family rental units. Landlords renting single family homes do not have to have a license to operate. Even my barber has to be licensed. The city has not done any favors for the students with regard to housing.

No comments: