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About the Shelter to Housing Continuum Project

Small structures behind chainlink fence with sign "Right to Dream Too"
Project purpose, background, next steps and timeline
On this page

Project purpose

The Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, the Housing Bureau and the Joint City-County Office of Homeless Services are partnering to review and retool City regulations to better address the homelessness crisis.

A range of approaches are being explored to better serve, shelter, and house Portlanders who are either experiencing — or are at risk of experiencing — houselessness. The Housing Bureau is continuing to build more apartments paired with supportive services for extremely low-income individuals and households The Joint Office of Homeless Services continues ramping up efforts to meet the increasing demand for emergency and short- term shelter, day storage and hygiene facilities. Expanding the options in the shelter-housing continuum are also being explored, such as campgrounds with tents or sleeping pods, tiny house villages, and micro-apartments with shared kitchens as well as other group living or housing arrangements.

Small structure with multi-colored siding with group mailboxes attached
Right to Dream Too mailboxes

The Bureau of Planning and Sustainability is developing proposals to change certain City Code requirements that would expand the housing and shelter options for individuals and households with extremely low incomes. Some of the solutions being explored will modify current permitting procedures, while others will require new City Code to be established.

The goals of this project are to further fair housing laws, expand the range of shelter and housing options, and improve how the regulatory environment affects for-profit, nonprofit, and public-sector-shelter and housing providers.

Code changes being considered could:

  • Promote more flexible household living arrangements.
  • Remove barriers to the production or retention of single-room-occupancy (SRO) housing, group living arrangements, or small apartments with shared kitchens.
  • Allow and regulate public or nonprofit operation of outdoor shelters where people can be accommodated in tents, yurts, small cabins or vehicles.
  • Allow occupancy of a recreational vehicle or a tiny house on wheels on residential property.
  • Increase allowances for “institutional” uses in residential zones (churches, synagogues, and mosques, for example) to provide shelter and services.
  • Modify current rules for temporary activities needed to respond to natural disasters and emergencies.
  • Adjust the siting regulations for temporary housing and shelters, increasing the number of allowed beds in some zones.
  • Adjust the siting of day storage and hygiene facilities serving the houseless.
  • Modify Design Review guidelines and other procedures for permitting affordable housing.

Project background

On October 7, 2015, the Portland City Council declared a housing emergency to help address the city’s growing homeless and affordable housing crisis. The declaration by Council allowed for the expedited development of affordable housing projects and made it easier to provide service locations to people experiencing homelessness.

dome-shaped teal building below the Broadway Bridge

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. There are already 792 new units of PSH open or in progress now.

Affordable housing production remained at an all-time high in 2019 for the second consecutive year, with 878 new units — the most ever produced in a single year. Another 3,100 are currently in development. Portland’s Housing Bond has contributed to this robust response. Twelve projects, totaling more than 1,420 units of permanently affordable housing, are either open or in progress across the city since voters overwhelmingly approved the city’s first bond for affordable housing in 2016.

Despite this progress, 4,015 people were counted as experiencing homelessness on a single night this winter (2019). We must continue to focus our efforts strategically to address the homeless crisis. 

Project steps and timeline

Project scoping and research — 2019

Code development — Spring 2020

Discussion Draft and stakeholder discussion — Summer 2020

Proposed Draft and Planning and Sustainability Commission hearings — Fall 2020

Recommended Draft and City Council hearings — February-March 2021

Effective date — April 2021 (shelter-related elements) and August 2021 (group living and RV/tiny house on wheels elements)