This week we had the chance to celebrate Laurel Forest Apartments with local, state, and national champions of affordable housing.   

The spirit of community was palpable at the ribbon-cutting ceremony we held on March 27, 2024, to mark the grand opening of Laurel Forest Apartments, a project we first announced in October of 2021. Hosted at the aptly named Community Room in the building, the event brought together guests including U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell alongside local officials, residents, and supporters, all joining representatives from Opportunity Council’s Housing Development, Early Learning, Property Management, and Community Services teams to celebrate a significant milestone in our collective journey. 

The atmosphere was vibrant, filled with anticipation and joy as attendees gathered to witness the inauguration of this newest addition to our community. Against the backdrop of cheerful conversations and shared laughter, the ceremony unfolded, emceed by Housing Development Manager Adrienne Wyld. Bellingham Mayor Kim Lund and Whatcom County Executive Satpal Sidhu both highlighted the local need for housing that fits everyone’s needs, expressing their excitement that Laurel Forest was now a reality. David Webster, Early Learning and Family Services director, spoke about the importance of the project in fighting Bellingham’s child care desert, while Executive Director Greg Winter expressed his gratitude for the individual, organizational, business, and government partners who made the project possible John Manetti, PSE Director of Customer Energy Innovation, presented Greg with a plaque commemorating the collaboration that brought solar energy to Laurel Forest using a PSE grant.

Senator Cantwell graced the occasion with her presence, embodying the spirit of unity and support that underscores the mission of Opportunity Council. Senator Cantwell responded to future resident Colin Neale’s words from the speech before hers – he expressed an overwhelming, positive feeling that he couldn’t name. “What you feel is community,” she said. These words resonated deeply, echoing the sentiment that defines Laurel Forest Apartments – a place where individuals come together to form bonds, support one another, and create lasting memories. 

One of the highlights of the event was the heartfelt testimonial shared by Colin, a future resident eagerly awaiting his move to the building in April. Colin’s story touched the hearts of everyone present as he expressed his excitement about the prospect of finally having a place to call his own. No longer will he have to rely on his daughter’s assistance to meet rent payments; instead, he looks forward to embracing independence and stability in his new home. 

A woman (U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell) speaks at a podium, addressing a group of people.

U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell addresses the big group of partners, public officials, Opportunity Council staff, and stakeholders at the Laurel Forest ribbon cutting.

A group of people in formal clothing stand behind teal and yellow ribbon, the man in the center beginning to cut it with giant scissors.

Adrienne Solenberger, David Webster, Greg Winter, Maria Cantwell, Satpal Sidhu, Colin Neale, and Kim Lund cut the ribbon to celebrate the upcoming opening of the Laurel Forest Apartments.

Four people stand together in front of a large bay of windows as one speaks to the rest of the room.

Bellingham Mayor Kim Lund, Bellingham City Councilmember Dan Hammill, Housing Development Manager Adrienne Wyld, and U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell check out a Laurel Forest apartment unit.

What truly warmed the hearts of those in attendance was Colin’s infectious enthusiasm as he spoke about being close to the walking trails he loves. His eyes sparkled with anticipation as he envisioned the adventures that await him just steps away from his doorstep. And as he concluded his remarks, Colin couldn’t contain his joy, breaking into a celebratory dance that encapsulated the spirit of hope and renewal that Laurel Forest Apartments represent. 

Behind the scenes of Laurel Forest Apartments lies a crucial element in making affordable housing a reality: the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program. This program, championed by Senator Cantwell among others, plays a pivotal role in financing the construction and rehabilitation of affordable rental housing for low-income households across the country. 

Through the LIHTC program, developers receive tax credits for investing in affordable housing projects like Laurel Forest Apartments. These credits incentivize private investors to fund the development of affordable housing, ensuring that individuals and families with limited means have access to safe, decent, and affordable homes. 

As we celebrate the opening of Laurel Forest Apartments, we recognize the indispensable role of the LIHTC program in making this vision a reality. Without it, Laurel Forest and Opportunity Council’s other housing development projects would not be possible. It is through dedicated community supporters, committed staff, and initiatives like the LIHTC program that we can truly make a difference in the lives of people like Colin Neale and the 55 others who will soon be calling the Laurel Forest Apartments home.