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PSC Recommends Shelter to Housing Continuum Zoning Code changes

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City Council will hold a public hearing on March 17th, before the City’s housing emergency expires.

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After considering public testimony on proposals to create more shelter options for people experiencing homelessness, the Planning and Sustainability Commission voted on January 26 to recommend several Zoning Code changes proposed by the Shelter to Housing Continuum project.

This project was initiated as part of City Council's Housing Emergency declaration and is aimed at removing code barriers that slow down the City-County effort to open more homeless shelters. It also includes changes that expand housing choice and facilitates the production of affordable housing projects.

The project has four elements:

  1. Code changes to make it easier to site homeless shelters and associated services in various zones.

  1. A new community service use in the Zoning Code called Outdoor Shelters. This will allow public agencies and community-based nonprofits to open more shelters like the Kenton Woman's Village or the St Johns Village. Until now these kinds of shelters required code exemptions from City Council, one at a time. The recommended code language provides a more routine path to permit these kind facilities, based on emerging alternative shelter models around the city.

  1. More housing flexibility by allowing Group Living configurations more broadly. This means that alternative types of housing like dormitories, senior care facilities, co-housing, and single-room occupancy apartments will be easier to build. 

  1. Allowing occupancy of a recreational vehicle or a tiny house on wheels on residential property. 

Shelters in Open Space zones

The PSC made several changes to the staff recommendation, including increasing the number of shelter beds allowed without a Conditional Use review in several zones and adjusting the definition of “group living.” They also asked City Council to loosen proposed requirements that might apply to occupied recreational vehicles or tiny houses on wheels.

The Commission spent some time discussing temporary and permanent shelters as they relate to the Open Space zone and several natural resource overlay zones (e.g., environmental, greenway, scenic, floodway). They discussed several amendments, but ultimately the PSC supported the initial staff recommendation: to continue the present prohibition on permanent shelters in the Open Space zone, as well as prohibit permanent outdoor shelters in the environmental and scenic overlay zones and in the floodway. Council would retain the authority to site temporary shelters in any location during a declared emergency.

Next steps

The S2HC Recommended Draft contains three volumes:

The recommended proposals will be considered by the Portland City Council at a public hearing on March 17 at 2 p.m. The public is invited to submit formal comments (public testimony) to City Council in writing, online via the Map App, or remotely at that time.  

Testify in writing

Submitting written testimony online is as easy as sending an email. Visit the Map App and then click “Testify.” Written testimony will be accepted until 2 p.m. on March 17.

Testify at the virtual public hearing

You can also testify during the public hearing using a computer, mobile device or telephone. You must pre-register to testifyThe deadline to sign up for the March 17 Council hearing is March 16 at 4 p.m.

The project has been a collaborative effort with the Joint City-County Office of Homeless Services, the Portland Housing Bureau, and the Bureau of Development Services.