In my blog entry of 3 July (click here to read that entry) I posited that one deleterious effect of increasing the number of unrelated persons in the definition of family for the purposes of zoning would be an immediate sanctioning by the city council of an increase of more than 9,000 possible renters within the single family neighborhoods, a back-door infill, as it were, with no input from those affected. There are some additional results if the number is increased from 3 to 4.
Our landlord representatives have on various occasions, in front of the council and in the newspapers, offered that theirs is an honorable profession and that most adhere to the laws. A regrettably small percentage of landlords are those who are causing the problems and bringing opprobrium on the group, they say. Taking the landlord representatives at their word, I would assume that most of the 9,000 or more rentals in Bellingham are either occupied by families related by blood or by groups of no more than three unrelated persons as the law states. If one raises the number of unrelated individuals to 4, then the overwhelming percentage of law-abiding landlords will have the legal green light to increase the number of unrelated renters in any home, regardless of its size. If the going rate for a single family home rental were the equivalent of $400 per renter under the so-called “rule of three”, a monthly rent of $1200 would be the result. Any landlord worth her mathematical salt, will immediately recognize that she, without changing the per capita cost for the current batch of renters, can add one more renter at $400 per month, thus increasing the overall rental rate for that particular home to $1,600 – a healthy 33% increase in rental income. The renters do not see their individual monthly rate increase and the landlord gets the windfall. And it is all legal. Oh, happy day!
Meanwhile, the family woman with her husband and two children, who are of modest resources and even more modest incomes, would like to rent that same house but now find that they are financially shut out of the process when the rent climbs 33%, from $1,200 to $1,600. The effect is even more profound on the single parent, single income family. The perverse outcome of raising the number of unrelated individuals is that in a market in which, low wage earners, 8,000 or more students from WWU and thousands more from WCC and BTC vie for housing, the groups of unrelated individuals become a more lucrative target for landlords. The higher you raise the number of unrelated individuals, the more market distortion you achieve and the more you invite uncontrolled infill.
Again, I ask my readers to contact the City Council members (click here to send a message) and the Mayor (click here to send him a message) to tell them that changing the number of authorized unrelated persons in a rental home is counterproductive and infringes on the ability of the neighborhoods to control infill.