Bellingham City Council Calls for Rent and Mortgage Relief; Port Establishes Rental and Moorage Relief Program

In Economy, Local Government, News by CTNW News

The Bellingham City Council is calling on Governor Inslee and the Trump administration to enact immediate rent and mortgage payment relief to help small businesses stay open and help families keep their homes during the COVID-19 crisis. The council unanimously approved a resolution recommending the relief at its April 13 virtual meeting.

The state’s emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic has ravaged the revenues of small businesses and the incomes of their employees, leaving many unsure how they’ll make their next rent payment.

Bellingham Mayor Seth Fleetwood has issued an Executive Order that includes rent relief to commercial tenants renting from the City, but the City does not have the resources to directly provide relief to most commercial and residential renters. Governor Inslee has proclaimed a statewide moratorium on residential evictions that has been extended through June 4, 2020, but it doesn’t prevent commercial evictions and still obligates the renter to pay the full amount.

The resolution calls for the federal and/or state governments to extend the eviction moratorium and suspend rent and mortgage payments for residential and commercial tenants for the duration of the crisis. The Seattle City Council passed a similar resolution on March 30.

Bellingham City Council Member Dan Hammill said he’s deeply concerned about renters and homeowners who are one unemployment check away from wondering if they’re going to be able to keep their homes.

Hammil responded, “For renters that make up over 53 percent of our population: We hear you!”

Bellingham’s resolution also calls for a long-term rent relief program that will provide grants, not loans, for residential and commercial renters impacted by the COVID-19 emergency, for a period of recovery after the lifting of the emergency declaration.

The resolution was amended to include assistance for undocumented individuals and adult college students who are not eligible for cash or rental assistance because they are claimed as dependants on their parent’s tax returns.

On April 3, the Port of Bellingham approved a resolution establishing a Port Tenant Relief Program in response to the COVID-19 Pandemic Emergency. The Port Commission passed this policy by a 3-0 vote.

“The Port understands there are significant economic impacts being felt throughout Whatcom County as we respond to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Port of Bellingham Commission President Michael Shepard.

“The Port’s rental and moorage relief policy is providing immediate financial assistance to our tenants in need as we work together to overcome the challenges associated with the pandemic and build an economically resilient community.”

Here’s a summary of the Port Tenant Relief Program:

  • Up to 3 months of deferred rent or deferred moorage fees to be paid back within a 12-month period.
  • No accrual of late fees or finance charges during the deferred rent period.
  • Applicable to real estate tenants and moorage customers who are undergoing financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Airport tenants are also eligible with restrictions on airlines in accordance with federal rules, regulations and guidance.
  • Deferral is based on a written request from the tenant, or moorage customer, proving financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 Pandemic
  • The Executive Director is to approve deferments on a case by case basis
  • The policy will be in effect until July 31, 2020, unless terminated or extended by the Commission prior to that date
  • Policy to be reviewed to determine if there is a need to extend or restructure, subject to future Commission approval