Significant data shows that homelessness is growing sharply in Washington State, spurred by a lack of affordable housing and a poorly funded mental health and substance abuse system. After years of decline, the City has recently seen an increase in the number of people experiencing unsheltered homelessness. A preliminary survey shows that the City's unsheltered homeless population grew from 299 individuals in 2017 to 380 in 2018, and seven in 10 people who are homeless in Whatcom County had their last home here. Meanwhile, median home values have increased 138 percent since 2000, and one in four working families can't afford their basic needs. To address this complex issue, the City has adopted a suite of long and short-term solutions to provide more affordable housing, support a "housing first" model for addressing homelessness, and provide immediate relief for those who are unsheltered.
The broad range of tools and resources available to address homelessness and affordable housing at the local level also includes regulatory changes to identify where encampments and shelters for the homeless are allowed and under what circumstances. Interim regulations have been adopted for temporary encampments, but permanent regulations for encampments and shelters are not yet in place. As such, the City is in the process of drafting an ordinance for temporary homeless facilities (i.e. temporary building encampments, temporary tent encampments, temporary tiny house encampments, and temporary safe parking areas) and long-term homeless shelters. The ordinance is being drafted to reflect state law and best practices from other cities along the west coast.
Planning Commission Meetings
April 26, 2018 - A work session was held to discuss requirements for temporary homeless facilities (i.e. temporary building encampments, temporary tent encampments, temporary safe parking areas, temporary tiny house encampments for the homeless) and long-term shelters in buildings.
June 7, 2018 - A second work session is planned continue the review and discussion of the draft ordinance.