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New Development Will Help Bellingham Meet Affordable Housing Goal

onstruction continues on The Curtis Apartments in Bellingham. The 250-unit complex is expected to open in the fall.

By David Dunbar
When the new Curtis Apartments in Bellingham open in the fall, 63 of the units for rent will be designated “affordable housing” and awarded through a lottery this month. The new apartment complex, located at 161 Mechanic Street, covers 15 acres and will have a total of 250 units.  
A state law widely known as “Chapter 40B” mandates that all communities dedicate a minimum of 10% of their housing stock to be affordable to lower income households.  
“Bellingham was at 7.6% in 2019,” reports Town Planner Jim Kupfer.  “The Curtis helps us meet a number of community goals including a boost to 12.6% in our affordable housing stock.”
“Affordable” means the cost of housing – rent or purchase – plus utility payments must total less than 30% of a household’s gross annual income.  According to Kupfer, “Annual income for a family of four must not exceed about $89,000” to qualify (there are many more details and exceptions in the qualification process).
Rentals frequently require first and last month’s rent, plus a security deposit, that can amount to $5,000 or more.  There are state programs available to help lower income families purchase a home or condo without having to lay out as much cash (check out for options).
Kupfer says, “Bellingham over the years has been trying to meet the needs of its residents… trying to piece together a plan to create a positive impact.”  If you’d like to know more, then review the Town’s Housing Production Plan which you can find here:
Now, about the lottery coming later this month.  
“The Reader’s Digest version,” explains David Cashman of SEB Housing, “is that all (applying) households who are eligible for the lottery will be included in the lottery and all households picked will be placed on waitlists that correspond to units for which they applied and were eligible. There will be multiple waiting lists for this property created from the lottery drawing as there are multiple unit types. The waitlists simply establish the order in which lottery households will be invited to apply for leases and, if lease eligible, the order in which they’ll be able to select from available units on that list.”
SEB Housing is an off-site affordable housing consulting group.
Cashman continues, “My best advice is that this is a great opportunity, and we hope to receive many applications, but households should also recognize that they need to provide a lot of income/asset/tax documentation to demonstrate their eligibility for the program. The upside is that there are a lot of affordable units at this development and any household who is eligible for the lottery will have a terrific chance of having the opportunity to lease a unit.”

The deadline to submit applications is May 16.  On May 31, the lottery will be held on YouTube.  
There will be two lottery drawings.  The first will be a “Local Preference Drawing” for town residents, town employees, and employees of town businesses. The second drawing will be for everyone else. More information is available at
“We want Bellingham to be well represented in the lottery,” says Kupfer.  In addition, “The Curtis will be a top 10 taxpayer in town.”
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