Editor’s note: Read the latest updates on Shelter to Housing.
By Garlynn Woodsong | CNA Board Member, SW1 | CNA LUTC Chair
The city of Portland has been in a state of housing emergency since first declared on Oct. 7, 2015. (See ProsperPortland.us/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/Housing-Emergency.pdf.)
It has been extended roughly annually by successive city councils since then. In this context, Jan. 26, the Portland Planning and Sustainability Commission voted to send Shelter to Housing Continuum (S2HC) zoning code changes to council for adoption before the city’s current housing emergency declaration expires April 4.
The word “continuum” is used to emphasize the project goal of providing pathways for housing to provide legally to everybody. That includes temporary shelter for persons experiencing houselessness to longer-term transitional shelters with onsite supportive services to a wider variety of more affordable types of permanent housing.
The changes the S2HC proposal would make to code include:
- Waive system development charges for outdoor shelters and for utility hookups for tiny homes on wheels
- Allow day storage units and hygiene facilities to be located in the public right-of-way, such as in the parking strip
- Eliminate the need for a conditional use permit to operate a meal program
- Clarify the difference in the code between “housing,” which is intended for permanent occupancy, and “shelter,” which is intended to serve transitional or emergency needs
- Allow longer-term occupancy of smaller shelters, such as tiny home villages, in certain zones
- Allow outdoor shelters on small sites on publicly-owned land in industrial zones, except in general employment 1 & 2.
- Exempt outdoor shelters from design review
- Allow as many as 20 individual shelters as a conditional use on a site that previously allowed one
- Remove the concept of a “household” – with its existing limitation on the number of people who may legally live in a dwelling unit – as a basis of regulation under the code
- Replace the above with regulation of structure type and/or the number of bedrooms contained therein, as well as require a minimum amount of habitable floorspace per resident
- Establish a threshold of as many as eight bedrooms in a dwelling unit for “household living” to distinguish it from “group living”
- Provide the possibility to legalize as many as one tiny home on wheels per residential lot without having it count as a dwelling unit in density standards and regulate it as a vehicle and not a structure, but maintain the prohibition on using it as an accessory short-term rental
S2HC is an effort to change parts of the city code to facilitate a larger, multi-jurisdictional effort to provide safe, decent and affordable shelter and housing to every Portlander who needs it.
It will allow a range of shelters that have already been sited as temporary, emergency uses under the emergency ordinance to be reviewed and considered for approval through permanent code provisions and to allow them to be legalized and to remain once the emergency expires.
Garlynn Woodsong lives on 29th Avenue, serves on the CNA board and is an avid bicyclist. He also is a dad who is passionate about the city his son will inherit. He is the planning + development partner with Cascadia Partners LLC, a local urban planning firm. Contact him at LandUse@ConcordiaPDX.org.