Yes! to Infill Housing

The Happy Valley neighborhood, a south Bellingham neighborhood with a mix of housing and demographics, is looking at how they can support increased density within their community. They are flipping the “Not in My Backyard” (NIMBY) movement on its head, by promoting “Yes! In My Backyard” (YIMBY). They are lead by community activists who are working tirelessly to shift the negative connotation that often comes with development and asking themselves “how can we develop inclusive housing choices for a happy, healthy community?”

Their community workshop, being held Friday evening April 28th and Saturday, April 29th, has caught the attention of City leaders, supporters like Sustainable Connections and the Whatcom Community Foundation, and well-known local nay-sayers who contest that the neighborhood is moving in the wrong direction. Neighbors will be hearing from Bellingham’s Planning Director, Rick Sepler and Architect and Urban Planner, Bill Kreager. Following the talks will be a panel discussion with yours truly and Dean Fearing, Executive Director of Kulshan Community Land Trust.

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YES! In My Back Yard Workshop

Exploring creative housing solutions for a healthy, happy neighborhood.
Date: April 29, 2017
Time: 9:00 am - 4:00 pm

At The RJ Group, we see the YIMBY movement as a positive undertaking. Not simply because real estate development is the name of our game, but it is our mission to create innovative living spaces and workplaces that insightfully respond to the evolving needs of our customers and our community. In a practical sense, housing demands are always changing and we need creative design to be at the forefront of how we accommodate growth within our communities through infill housing forms.

We took a stab at our first infill project back in 2014 with The Peabody Townhome project. In fact, this was Bellingham’s first project using their “Infill Toolkit” – a residential land use code. We have learned a great deal about what works, who purchased a home and why they chose to buy a relatively higher priced attached product versus buying a “snout house” on the suburban fringe. The design flexibility of the Peabody townhomes and accessibility to community amenities topped the list for buyers as the reason why they chose to live at Peabody. As we move forward, we are taking these lessons to heart as we work to create new neighborhoods within Bellingham’s City limits. We can create solutions for buyers who need a mother-in-law suite to be utilized at face value or a rental unit for supplemental income – or even an art studio for an in home occupation. We can and will create different housing types for buyers on each side of the income spectrum and in between.

Peabody Street Townhomes

The Infill Toolkit has all of the “tools” needed to allow developers to build inclusive housing forms such as townhomes, cottages, and garden court housing. However, the code is design restrictive and we are committed to working with the City on how to improve the code so that these “tools” are utilized in a way that works for areas that it was intended – single family zones -- including Happy Valley.

The Happy Valley Neighborhood will be taking a deep dive into these issues and asking their neighbors what they want to see and what “tools” they will say “Yes! In My Back Yard” to. We look forward to participating in this free event that engages neighbors to educate themselves on how infill can work in an established neighborhood. What tools would you say “Yes!” to in your neighborhood?