Portland City Council voted once again to extend a housing emergency to continue to deal with the city’s housing crisis.
The emergency declaration, which was first declared in 2015, will continue to waive portions of the city’s zoning code and will give the Portland Housing Bureau and the Multnomah County Joint Office of Homelessness Services six months to come up with metrics to decide when the emergency declaration can end. The vote was unanimous.
The council also voted to extend mandatory relocation assistance for tenants who are involuntarily displaced. The policy was set to expire Oct. 6, but Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler says an extension will give council time to come up with a permanent assistance policy.
The vote extends the sunset by six months, though Mayor Wheeler says he plans to have a permanent policy by Dec. 6 that would be in place by the end of the calendar year.
The policy as it currently exists includes an exemption for owners of one rental property. It allows them to avoid paying renter relocation fees, an exemption Commissioner Chloe Eudaly attempted to amend at the city council meeting Wednesday. The amendment failed.
City and county leaders laid out what they’d accomplished under the housing emergency declaration. Officials say the declaration has allowed them to avoid “dumb rules” that have prevented them from building affordable housing quickly. Mayor Wheeler said waived zoning codes allowed the city to streamline the permit process for 2,200 affordable housing units now in the pipeline.
Mark Jolin, the director of the Joint Office of Homeless Services said the office has helped 4,900 people get permanent housing, a 65 percent increase since the year before the housing emergency was declared. Jolin says six year round emergency shelters have opened in two years, creating 650 new beds in the county.
But officials say the work is not done.
More than 1,600 people remain unsheltered, and the city’s overall homeless population has continued to grow over 10 percent in the past two years.
“We need to fully stabilize the shelter capacity we created,” said Jolin.