The 600 square foot 2-bedroom home stood at 1215 Humboldt St. for over 100 years (see photo below). Allowed to run down to a ruin, in 2014 the property was bought by Jon and Ginny Hansen for $125,000. The house was bulldozed and a 7-bedroom boarding house, masquerading as a single family home, was built on the 4,356 square foot lot. The house was immediately advertized for rent through Lakeway Realty. Obviously targeted to student renters, the craigslist ad (see copy below) asks for information about “your group.” This ought to dispel any notion that this enormous structure could actually serve as a rental for a family, especially at $3,650 per month or $44,000 per year. It also speaks of “tons of off-street parking” which, of course is available on the street twice a year, once during the summer and once during the winter holidays. However, the owners did provide a 4-car parking pad at the rear of the home by effectively paving over the existing backyard. Unfortunately, one of the parking spots is blocked by a guy wire (see photo below) from an adjacent telephone pole placed there by the power company on a public right-of-way. Hansen just paved around it.
To determine if the craigslist rental ad that appeared in May 2015 did, in fact, pertain to the 1215 Humboldt St. property, a member of the York Neighborhood posed as an interested renter and was directed to that same address. In all fairness, perhaps the owner does actually want to rent to a family but at that monthly rent (presumably plus utilities) the total layout for this home approaches $48,000 per year. Nothing like affordable infill housing for Bellingham.
A code violation enforcement complaint has been submitted on this Humboldt St. rental under BMC 20.08.020(F)(1). The rental is effectively an illegal rooming house. As for the Hansen-Iron St. rental megaplex that I wrote about on June 1st, the York Neighborhood has been told that the city is now investigating the Hansen property and associated permit requests. The city attorney is actively involved. According to Anne Mackie, a York Neighborhood Board member, “We are hopeful that some kind of enforcement action will take place.”
There is no doubt that there is a concerted effort on the part of the Hansens and Lakeway Realty to buy and raze older homes in existing neighborhoods. They then build faux single family homes to rent, subverting zoning, violating the BMC, and damaging the character of local neighborhoods. The city must stop this practice in its tracks before other developers decide that this is the wave of the future.