Whatcom County, If you are a Bellingham resident, Initiatives 1 and 2 are on your ballot this year (ballots are hitting mailboxes this week). Unsure how you will vote? We’re here to help! Analysts at Washington Policy Center have written detailed reports, as well as producing key findings, on both initiatives. (Click here for the full report and key findings on Initiative 1/Increasing the Minimum Wage, and here for Initiative 2/Rental housing requirements.) Initiative 1 would, if passed: Require all employers in Bellingham to pay $1.00 more per hour than that state minimum wage, increasing to $2.00 more in 2025; The measure would also cover people who work at home. Why you should care: as the Washington Policy Center explains, “The requirements imposed on employees and employers by Initiative 1 would cost both of them more money, destroy jobs and create an uncompetitive job market in Bellingham that would slow economic growth in the region. It would also deny earning opportunities to those who are seeking jobs and want to work, especially for low-skilled and low-income workers.” Bellingham business are already struggling with all kinds of issues. This initiative will ultimately just drive up the costs that you and I pay at the counter for basic goods, driving up the cost of living and thus nullifying the benefits of higher wages. Initiative 2 would, if passed: Require landlords who raise rent by more than 8% to pay their tenants a “relocation assistance” fee equal to three months of rent. Effectively impose rent control because it would pressure landlords to restrict any rent increases to below 8%
Why you should care: Again, from the Washington Policy Center: “The Initiative almost exactly replicates an ordinance passed in Portland six years ago….Both economic theory and real-world results unequivocally show that laws which artificially control rents disincentivize housing providers from creating and retaining an affordable housing supply, driving low-income renters to the financial brink and pushing more people into homelessness. Bellingham, like Portland, suffers from lack of housing affordability and rising homelessness because of a shortage of housing caused by strict growth management laws, zoning rules, and other housing regulations imposed in the face of high population growth. Initiative 2 does not address any of the root causes and instead would make the problem of affordable housing worse.”
Both Initiatives will be counterproductive, driving up the costs of living – including the costs of basic goods and services and housing, hurting the same people that proponents say they are trying to help. Do your own research and think carefully about your vote.
Our goal is to keep you informed on important issues in our County. Let us know if you agree or disagree with this analysis of these two measures before Bellingham voters by replying to this email!
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