This week the Bend City Council approved zoning code changes to allow more homeless shelters in city limits, but not before making some concessions to opposed residents.
The code changes lay out three different types of shelter that can be built in most parts of the city, making it easier for private groups to operate services for people experiencing homelessness.
City officials also included restrictions on where new shelters can be built. These changes came after they received more than 700 public comments, according to Councilor Megan Perkins.
For example, earlier drafts of the code proposed hardship housing, a permit system for property owners to allow people to live on their property for six to 18 months. This would have opened the option for people to temporarily live in recreational vehicles on driveways or in yards, but councilors scrapped that idea in response to outcry.
Officials also decided to require shelter managers to be on-site 24 hours a day, rather than on-call, and have promised to do additional outreach to neighborhood associations where a shelter will be located.
At Wednesday’s key council vote, Bend resident Kim Muinch was among the protestors who spoke against the code changes.
“This is a social problem. It’s not an affordable housing issue,” Muinch said.
“People that can’t afford to live here, they just shouldn’t live here any more than we should live in Beverly Hills.”
The most recent point-in-time count estimated there were around 1,300 unhoused people living in Central Oregon on a single night in January, although advocates say the actual number is likely much higher.
The council is expected to finalize the zoning code changes at its next meeting June 1. Councilors have said they plan to address unsanctioned camping separately, at some point this summer.