Bellingham Tenants Union


2018, June, Robert Ashworth

As the cost of housing in Bellingham continues to rise, some folks have organized a tenants union. It can be found on both Facebook and Twitter. On Twitter the address is https://twitter. com/BhamTenantUnion.
The organization deals with landlord / tenant issues as well as advocating forms of city planning that lead to more affordable housing.
On a personal note, I feel quite fortunate that my own rent has remained reasonable, but I am glad to see that people are organizing around this issue. There is a big nationwide problem of folks being pushed out of cities and towns due to the cost of housing.
My first recollection of this problem was back in 1980 when I visited San Francisco for the Gay Pride March. At that event, someone handed me a leaflet from an African American group. It was complaining that gay people were contributing to a so called “clean up” of the city which was pushing out other minorities. Areas of the city were being repainted and restored, prices were going up and people were being forced out. At first I was somewhat taken aback thinking this was needless complaining from some kind of “divide and conquer” strategy. Why complain about neighborhoods that are being restored? Soon I realized that rising rents was the problem. It was tearing the city apart and setting various groups of citizens against one another. Not long after that, a new word entered my vocabulary. Gentrification.
Population growth and economic prosperity puts pressure on the cost of living. Planning can address these issues. One problem that exists around a lot of American cities is sprawl. As people move farther from the city, commutes get longer and traffic increases. This makes the central city, with it’s pedestrian neighborhoods and public transit, more appealing by comparison. People with money start moving back into the city to escape the traffic of the suburbs. This displaces residents that were already living there. Better planning for pedestrians and transit, in the suburban areas around the city, would help to accommodate the growing population.
Lots of people are also moving to places like Bellingham, in order to get away from sprawl and traffic. As folks move to this area, we get the same problems. Awareness and good planning are needed to address these issues.

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