City releases newest community survey results

Homelessness, affordable housing, jobs top community concerns

March 27, 2017 - by Vanessa Blackburn, Communications Director

​The City of Bellingham has released its 2016 Residential Survey Report, which was conducted in the fall 2016 by Western Washington University's Center for Economic and Business Research.

The survey, which is issued by the City of Bellingham every few years, collects information regarding City residents' views about issues facing the community. Results from previous surveys are used in a historical analysis of most questions. The purpose of the study is to seek feedback from residents about their experience as citizens of the City of Bellingham. A combination of 50 multiple choice questions, three rank-order questions, and six open-ended questions aim to gather information from respondents about their demographic details, quality of life, satisfaction with City services, opinions on budget priorities, views on challenges facing the community, and ideas for the future.

“Every few years we get the opportunity to hear from hundreds of our residents about their concerns and priorities,” Mayor Kelli Linville said. “We received a lot of great feedback this year that will help us provide the high level of service that people expect in our great city. The people of Bellingham care deeply about our city, and that was clear by the great feedback we received in this survey.”

The 2016 survey identified several growing trends in the Bellingham community. While respondents remain extremely positive about overall quality of life — about 94 percent of respondents rated the city's quality of life as either excellent or good — several concerns were reflected throughout the survey.

The issue of homelessness is heavily present throughout the survey responses, and respondents ranked homelessness as the most important challenge facing Bellingham. This concern was reflected in a wide-range of survey questions relating to property crime, drug enforcement, downtown safety, park and trail safety, mental health care and other social services, concern for marginalized populations, and problems with gangs and loitering. When asked what positive changes respondents would make as a City leader, “solve homelessness” is mentioned more than any other topic.

“The issue of homelessness also concerns me deeply, and there are no easy fixes to this complex problem,” Linville said. “This is why we've taken a strategic approach, including working towards opening a new easy-access homeless shelter in Bellingham. We will continue to invest in housing and work with our nonprofit partners to provide services and address this great need in our community.”

Housing affordability was rated by survey respondents as the second most important challenge facing Bellingham, and the opinions of how well we're doing with housing affordability in Bellingham has dropped significantly since the 2013 study. Economic development was ranked as the third most important challenge facing Bellingham.

Other notable trends in the 2016 survey include a rise in the percent of respondents who felt that renewable energy and preventing development in Lake Whatcom Watershed were extremely important priorities.

About the Center for Economic and Business Research

The Center for Economic and Business Research is an outreach center at WWU located within the College of Business and Economics. The Center connects the resources found throughout the University to assist for-profit, non-profit, government agencies, quasi-government entities and tribal communities in gathering and analyzing useful data. The Center employs students, staff and faculty from across the University, as well as outside resources, to meet the individual needs of their clients. For more information about the CEBR, visit their website:

For more information

The full 261-page 2016 Residential Survey Report, the 13-page executive summary, and results from previous City of Bellingham surveys are available at the City of Bellingham website at

Media Contact

​Vanessa Blackburn, Communications Director
Mayor's Office

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