Affordable Housing Incentives

​​​​​Offering safe and affordable housing is vital to the health of our community. It allows families to live safe and stable lives, while still being able to afford basic needs, like food, clothing, transportation and medical care. In order to be considered “affordable,” housing costs can’t exceed 30% of a family’s gross income and must serve families making 80% or less of the Area Median Income (PDF).

Take Advantage of Local Incentives

In conjunction with an affordable housing project, developers may request the following incentives (see Ordinance 2015-07-029 for details):

  • Fee Reduction: Request a waiver of up to 80% of Park Impact, School Impact and Transportation Impact fees.
  • System Development Charge Reduction: Request a waiver of up to 80% of utility connection fees.  

Other incentives are available that may be combined or pursued separately for new development projects:

  • Multi-Family Tax Exemption (MFTE): Currently the only MFTE programs available are in the Fairhaven and Barkley neighborhoods, the 12-year MFTE requires at least 20% of the units be set aside as affordable.
  • Opportunity Zones: Look into development in these designated areas to receive favorable tax treatment if you have investors facing capital gain liabilities.
  • Development Codes & Incentives: Additional incentives are available for development in the City’s Urban Villages and elsewhere under certain circumstances.

Explore Funding Options

While we don’t provide or manage affordable housing, we do offer financial assistance to help your project succeed; these options include:       

  • Home Rehabilit​ation Loan Program – This program provides low-interest loans for the rehabilitation of one- to four-unit family residences; these residences must be owner-occupied by people with incomes at or below 80% of Whatcom County’s median income, with some additional eligibility criteria. In addition to funding, this program also offers inspections operational assistance , referrals and more.
  • Additional Funding OpportunitiesThese programs are funded by Bellingham’​s Housing Levy​, as well as federal funds received through HUD and the City’s General Fund. Other opportunities include acquisition and opportunity loans and emergency repairs.

Access Helpful Resources

The following resources offer helpful information on housing guidelines, rental information and more.

  • Housing Development Handbook (PDF): Learn about guidelines and procedures for developing affordable City-funded housing in Bellingham.
  • Income and Rent Limits (PDF): income and rent limits, updated annually.
  • WBARS: Access the Web-Based Annual Reporting System to find reports, access due dates, contact funders and more.
  • Fair Housing: Learn about fair housing rights and the Fair Housing Act, which protects people against discrimination in housing.
  • Home Fund Story Map: Learn about the projects funded over time by the City’s Housing & Services Program.
  • Lead-based Paint: Learn about lead-based paint hazards and standards.
  • Landlord/Tenant Resources: Access rental resources, learn who to contact with questions and more.

Contact Us for Guidance

Have questions about affordable housing development, funding and incentives? For more information, contact Samya Lutz, Housing and Services Program Manager at or 360-778-8385. 



Planning and Community Development

Samya Lutz at or 360-778-8385