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WTA seeks developer for affordable housing in Lynden

Transit agency to lease portion of bus station property; Grant's Burgers needs to move

Whatcom Transportation Authority vehicles sit in a mostly empty park-and-ride lot Tuesday
Unused land at Whatcom Transportation Authority's Lynden Station will be developed with affordable housing. (Andy Bronson/Cascadia Daily News)
By Ralph Schwartz Local Government Reporter

Hoping to be part of the solution to the county’s affordable-housing crisis, Whatcom Transportation Authority on Thursday, Feb. 22, put out a call to developers to build workforce housing next to its transit station in Lynden.

Phase 1 of the housing project, as envisioned by WTA in consultation with RMC Architects, would include 60 residential units for farmworkers. A second phase of 56 units could serve other groups, such as seniors or families. The architect’s recommendations also include spaces for a farmworker resource center, child care and health care. 

A portion of the property would remain in use as a bus station. Grant’s Burgers, a fast food restaurant, leases part of the WTA property at 1945 Front St. and will vacate the site after its lease expires in April 2025, WTA General Manager Les Reardanz said.

In its formal “request for qualifications” to developers, WTA required that the cost of the housing for its residents be no more than 30% of their monthly income. 

At least 40% of the units would be for tenants who make no more than 60% of the area median income (AMI). The AMI for a family of four in Whatcom County is about $102,600, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“There is an affordable housing crisis here in Whatcom County,” Reardanz told transit agency board members on Feb. 15, shortly before the board voted to surplus most of the Lynden Station property so it could be leased to a developer.

“This is an opportunity to use an underutilized piece of property to help with that, while also benefiting WTA … by combining transit with housing,” Reardanz added.

WTA board members supported the proposal at their Feb. 15 meeting, but some pushed back on the number of parking spaces proposed for the development. Preliminary drawings by RMC Architects show 148 parking spaces for the first 60 units of the project, as required by Lynden city code.

“There are communities being built where there is no car parking,” said board member Satpal Sidhu, who is also county executive. “I’m not saying have zero parking, but I think that we should minimize parking, which is just barely necessary.”

Lynden Mayor and WTA board member Scott Korthuis said parking will be important for this project, given the population it will serve.

“The housing is for farmworkers who end up in various areas unserved by buses in the county, and they will need vehicles,” Korthuis said.

WTA board members anticipate selecting a developer in May and finalizing the lease by the end of the year.

Ralph Schwartz is CDN’s local government reporter; reach him at; 360-922-3090 ext. 107.

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