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Rent is up 22% in Bellingham since 2020. Here’s how we stack up

The price of rent in Bellingham continues to increase at a rate faster than we are seeing statewide and across the nation.

As of May 16, the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Bellingham was $1,450. That’s up 22% since the start of the pandemic in 2020, when the average rent cost was $1,125, according to data from Zumper.

Comparing the numbers

The average rental price of a one-bedroom apartment has risen almost 20% nationwide since the pandemic began. In 2020 it was $958 a month. It’s now up to $1,152, according to an analysis by QuoteWizard.

Washington has seen a 12% rental cost increase since 2020, with the average rental price of a one-bedroom apartment reaching $1,288.

The average rental price of a one-bedroom apartment in Seattle is $1,545. Although the price is higher than renters face in Bellingham, that number is actually down 3% since 2020.

Percentage of income spent on housing

Incomes aren’t rising fast enough for renters in Whatcom County to keep up with the increase in rental prices, with the median household income in Bellingham at $58,597, according to previous reporting by The Bellingham Herald.

Whatcom County renters are spending a larger percentage of their income on housing than renters in most other counties in the state. About 33% of renters’ income in Whatcom is spent on housing, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey five-year estimates released in December.

Whatcom comes in just below Wahkiakum and Whitman counties, where renters spend about 35% and 41% of their income on housing, respectively. Renters in surrounding counties pay slightly smaller percentages of their income on housing — about 30% in Skagit County and about 25% in Okanogan County.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) considers those who spend more than 30% of their income on housing to be cost-burdened.

The challenge of buying

Some 54% of the available housing units in Bellingham are occupied by renters. If renters are making the median income, it’s almost impossible to save enough money to leave the rental market and buy a house.

One analysis by HireAHelper earlier this year found that residents of Whatcom County need to work 108 hours a week to afford to purchase a home.

Out of 204 small metropolitan areas analyzed in the U.S., Whatcom County requires the 14th-most weekly work hours to afford a home. The analysis assumes the worker is earning a median wage, makes a 20% down payment on the mortgage and allocates less than 30% of their monthly wages to mortgage payments.

At the time of the study, Whatcom County’s median home price was $632,170 and the median annual wage was $46,570.