Portland Mayor Charlie Hales just announced intentions to declare a housing emergency in Portland. He’ll ask city council to approve.
The move would allow the city to waive zoning codes, convert city-owned buildings into shelters more nimbly, Hales office says. The city also plans to work with Multnomah County to petition Gov. Kate Brown to declare a state of emergency for Portland. That would mean Portland can waive portions of state building codes to allow for expedited conversion of buildings to shelters. It would also expedite the construction of a new permanent housing site for people who’ve been served by the Unity Center, the psychiatric emergency center planned in Portland.
It’s still unclear where the tendrils of this new, somewhat unexpected announcement go. Hales and his Chief of Staff, Josh Alpert, were hurriedly visiting city commissioners’ offices directly
“When I came into office, the single-night count of homeless told us we had 1,800 Portlanders sleeping unsheltered. That same count, two years later, barely budged. And yet we had spent millions of dollars and countless staff time,” Hales said in the news release. “We’ve tried slow-and-steady. We’ve tried by-the-book. It’s time to add the tools we currently lack.”
Hales plans to convene a meeting of all mayors from other West Coast cities this fall to address issues of affordable housing and homelessness, according to the news release.
Earlier this week, Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles lawmakers took similar steps to address out-of-control rents, huge displacement, and record breaking numbers of homeless.
It’s been an exciting week for cities up and down the West Coast, all of which are experiencing homelessness and displacement at alarming rates.
On Monday, Seattle City Council passed a resolution calling for the state legislature to lift its ban on rent control and passed two bills increasing tenant protections.
Tuesday, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors beefed up tenant rights by prohibiting evictions for minor offenses, allowing tenants to get a roomie, and extending rent control on certain vacated units.
And Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti yesterday announced the city is prepared to spend at least $100 million in the next year to fight rampant homelessness.