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Opportunity Council to launch new rental assistance program Dec. 1

Screenings will be open for rent-burdened seniors and families with children

By Charlotte Alden General Assignment/Enterprise Reporter

The Opportunity Council is launching its new rental assistance program Friday, Dec. 1, intended to target rent-burdened seniors and families with children.

The program, funded by the City of Bellingham, will provide short-term rental assistance and case management for seniors and families with children who make below 50% area median income and pay 50% or more of their income for rent in Bellingham.

Starting at 9 a.m. Friday, households can complete a screening online at www.oppco.org/help-with-rent, in person at 1111 Cornwall Ave, or by calling the Opportunity Council’s homeless prevention screening line at 360-746-3826. 

Screenings will close at 4 p.m. Friday, Dec. 8. Households that meet that basic criteria will be entered into a lottery system. Those selected will be contacted to schedule an appointment.

“We expect the program to be in great demand as we continue to see high need in our community for rental support,” said Opportunity Council Director of Operations Lorena Shah in an email. “We are grateful for the additional support from the city to serve these vulnerable populations but recognize we will not be able to meet all the needs in the city with these funds.”

This extra assistance comes following the Opportunity Council’s homeless prevention program reaching capacity in October. According to a City of Bellingham report, about 54% of all renters are cost-burdened, and 63% of seniors who rent are cost-burdened.

This fall, the City of Bellingham authorized $384,000 from the housing levy and the affordable housing sales tax to the Opportunity Council to run this program. A total of $305,158 will be available for rental assistance through this program, with the other funds going towards staffing the program. 

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