In 2019, the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, the Housing Bureau, and the Joint City-County Office of Homeless Services partnered to retool City regulations to better address the homelessness crisis.
A range of approaches have been explored to better serve, shelter, and house Portlanders who are either experiencing — or are at risk of experiencing — houselessness. The Housing Bureau has continued to build more apartments paired with supportive services for extremely low-income individuals and households The Joint Office of Homeless Services (JOHS) continues to ramp up efforts to meet the increasing demand for emergency and short- term shelter, day storage, and hygiene facilities. Expanding options in the shelter-to-housing continuum is also being explored, such as campgrounds with tents or sleeping pods, tiny house villages, micro-apartments with shared kitchens, as well as other group living or housing arrangements.
The Bureau of Planning and Sustainability developed a set of amendments to certain City Code requirements to expand the housing and shelter options for individuals and households with extremely low incomes.
In 2021, the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability adopted the Shelter to Housing Continuum package (S2HC), a set of amendments to certain City Code requirements to expand the housing and shelter options for individuals and households with extremely low incomes. While the City launched the Safe Rest Villages Initiative and the JOHS continues to operate and open other facilities, several other zoning code barriers and unanticipated technical issues have arisen. As BPS staff were made aware of these issues, in 2022 a follow-on project was proposed. The Shelter to Housing Continuum Project – Part 2 (S2HC2) supplements the adopted S2HC project by proposing several refinements based on the initially implemented code language adopted in 2021.
Changes adopted in Part 1 of the project
The first Shelter to Housing Continuum package (S2HC), which took effect in 2021, contained four elements:
- Code changes to make it easier to site homeless shelters and associated services in various zones.
- Implementation of a new community service use in the Zoning Code called “outdoor shelter.” The new outdoor shelter adds to the types of shelters already addressed in the Zoning Code and allows public agencies and community-based nonprofits to open more shelters like the Kenton Women's Village or St Johns Village. Until the S2HC amendments were adopted, outdoor shelters required code exemptions from City Council one at a time. The adopted code provides a more routine path to permit these kinds of facilities, based on emerging alternative shelter models around the city.
- Increased housing flexibility by allowing group living configurations more broadly. The project further legalized single room occupancy (SRO) units in some zoning districts and removed the conditional use requirement, streamlining the review process for many regulated affordable housing projects with SROs. This means that alternative types of housing, such as dormitories, senior care facilities, co-housing, and SRO apartments will be easier to build.
- Allows occupancy of a recreational vehicle or a tiny house on wheels on residential property.
Goals of Part 2 of the project
While the code changes adopted in 2021 have helped to simplify the process for siting shelters, as noted above, several other zoning code barriers and unanticipated technical issues have arisen.
The S2HC2 supplements the adopted S2HC project through several recommended code changes, described in more detail in the Proposed Draft:
- Outdoor shelter “sites.” This amendment clarifies that outdoor shelters are allowed on large sites.
- Development standards. These amendments exempt shelters from base zone, overlay zone, and plan district development standards while creating a limited set of development standards for outdoor shelters to meet. The development standards that would apply to outdoor shelters are:
- Setbacks. This amendment requires an outdoor shelter to be set back 5 feet from all property lines.
- Fence Standards. This amendment reduces the fence requirement around an outdoor shelter from a 6-foot tall totally sight-obscuring fence (e.g., wood fence) to a partially sight-obscuring fence (e.g., chain link fence with slats).
- Height. This amendment sets a maximum height of 20 feet for all structures in an outdoor shelter.
- Temporary Activities Rules. These amendments clarify the rules for shelters operating as a temporary activity by making clear that only temporary development and alterations are allowed for temporary activities and specifying that these activities can occur in parking areas.
- Conditional Uses and Conditional Use Master Plans. These amendments allow shelters to be added to a site with an already approved conditional use without triggering a modification to the existing conditional use approval.
On Oct. 7, 2015, Portland City Council declared a housing emergency to help address the city’s growing homeless and affordable housing crisis. The declaration by Council allowed the expedited development of affordable housing projects and made it easier to provide service locations to people experiencing homelessness.
In November 2016, Portland voters passed the city’s first housing bond, dedicating $258.4 million to create 1,300 permanently affordable homes. Four bond-funded buildings are currently providing homes to more than 300 Portlanders. As of August 2022, another 11 projects were under construction for a total of 15 projects and 1,490 units of affordable housing either open or in progress across the city, thanks to Portland’s Housing Bond.
In partnership with Multnomah County and the Joint Office of Homeless Services, in 2017 the City committed to adding 2,000 units of Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) to address chronic homelessness in our community.
Despite this progress, 4,015 people were counted as experiencing homelessness on a single night this winter (2021). We must continue to focus our efforts strategically to address the homeless crisis.
Next steps and timeline for Part 2 of the project
S2HC2 project scoping and research — Spring 2022
Code development — Spring 2022
Discussion Draft and stakeholder discussion — Summer 2022
Proposed Draft and Planning and Sustainability Commission hearings — Fall 2022
Recommended Draft and City Council hearings — Fall-Winter 2022-2023
Effective date — Winter 2023