Friday, April 2, 2010
STOP! Rental Licensing Is NOT About Single Family Zoning
As I have been speaking to representatives of various neighborhoods and to individuals throughout the community, I have found that many are conflating the current discussion about licensing rentals in Bellingham with the issue of single family zoning (so-called "rule of three"). These subjects are not interchangeable.
Rental licensing is about basic health and safety issues. Single family codes are about zoning and density. For those who have been reading this blog since its inception in 2007, you are aware that I am a vociferous supporter of the enforcement of zoning codes. Non-enforcement of these codes over the last several decades has had a deleterious effect on our neighborhoods, resulting in an insidious and clandestine infill that changes their character.
While working on the zoning issue, I discovered tangential problems having to do with the condition of our rental stock. These problems overshadowed the zoning issue in that the state of the rentals in Bellingham presents a public safety and health question which cannot be ignored, especially given our highly transient renter population.
The zoning problem still needs attention but licensing rentals will not solve it. There is work to be done on the zoning code itself, primarily in decriminalizing violations by making them civil infractions. The code also can be updated to include recent changes in law relating to the passage of R-71 on domestic partnerships. I fully support such revisions.
Those who purposely confuse these two issues in order to defeat the passage of rental licensing in Bellingham are doing a disservice to the renters of the over 17,000 units now in the market. Lack of rental licensing and inspection deserves debate on its own merits. To not do so would be a detriment to half our population who now resides in units about which neither the landlords nor the renters have sufficient knowledge regarding their safety.