Happy Valley neighborhood says “Yes! In My Back Yard!” with Project Neighborly event
Please welcome guest blogger Carol Dellecker who is sharing a little about her experience at the Happy Valley Neighborhood Association’s Project Neighborly event, “YIMBY – Yes, in my back yard!” on April 28 & 29. Carol is a board member at the Whatcom Community Foundation and a proud resident of the Happy Valley neighborhood.
With the support of a Project Neighborly grant award, the Happy Valley Neighborhood Association hosted fantastic community-building YIMBY activities to “learn, engage and explore creative housing solutions for healthy, happy neighborhoods.” What an experience!
The program kicked off at the Firehouse Cafe on Friday night with a free showing of two films: a short film depicting why Happy Valley residents cherish their community, followed by the inspiring story, “A Man Called Ove.” About 80 attended and enjoyed both films.
Rose Lathrop, Green Building & Smart Growth Manager at Sustainable Connections (and Happy Valley resident), moderated the YIMBY workshops Saturday, which focused on ‘Exploring Housing for a Happy Neighborhood.’ Bill Kreager, an architect and urban planner; and Rick Sepler, Director of the Bellingham Planning and Community Development department, were the featured speakers. About 100 participants attended and interacted with representatives from the City of Bellingham Planning Department, Planning Commission, Bellingham City Council, Kulshan Community Land Trust, Habitat for Humanity of Whatcom County, Unity Care NW, Sustainable Connections, as well as architects, developers, lenders, a few other neighborhood representatives and real estate agencies for robust discussion about affordable housing solutions in our urban areas.
Three small group sessions took place after lunch:
1. Affordability and Healthy Neighborhoods: The barriers to and importance of welcoming neighbors to create a community of diversity, equity and inclusion. We also discussed inadequate and unaffordable housing as a health issue.
2. Urban infill tool kit: using cottage houses, attached courtyard, townhouses, duplexes, accessory dwelling units, etc. in an appealing and attractive way as solutions to increase affordability and density within the urban growth boundary.
3. Proposed Happy Valley detached accessory dwelling unit pilot program: to allow 20 detached accessory dwelling units in our neighborhood over 5 years.
The Yes! In My Back Yard project fostered a community conversation about the need for expanding housing choices for people of all incomes and planning for growth in a way that improves everybody’s quality of life. More people are looking to live in walkable neighborhoods, near jobs, transit and services. Demands on the housing market are increasingly making these places inaccessible for many. These events helped neighbors in Happy Valley explore how we can provide accessible, affordable housing and have a vibrant, happy neighborhood.