Perhaps it is time for a Rental Housing Commission in Bellingham which can be created in conjunction with a licensing program for rental housing. Recently, I received information that the city of Durham New Hampshire has created such a commission (click here to read the establishing code). The charge of this commission is “addressing and resolving on a continuing basis public policy issues associated with rental housing.” Also, “ The Commission shall facilitate enforcement of Town ordinances regarding rental housing and foster public communication between all constituent groups represented on the Commission.” These constituent groups are mainly the city, the landlords, the tenants (in general), the students and the university. Such a commission would be more widely representative of the entirety of the city than the Campus Community Coalition which focuses mainly on town/gown issues.
In a city where we have commissions for bicycles, parking, sister cities and the arboretum, one might posit that a commission on rental housing deserves at least the same level of recognition given the problems associated with our huge rental market. Tens of thousands of our residents are renters, yet there is no commission to oversee the issues associated with rentals. Durham has experienced much the same as Bellingham with regard to rentals. Two recent newspaper articles spell out the issues (click here and here to read these pieces) which bear an uncanny resemblance to those we face here in Bellingham.
I urge the City Council to consider adding a Rental Housing Commission as the 7th item to Jack Weiss’s package (read the other six here) for a comprehensive solution to the rental housing mess the citizens have endured for decades.