Ordinances for Temporary Shelters and Interim Housing

​Significant data demonstrates that the number of people experiencing homelessness is growing sharply in Washington State, spurred by a lack of affordable housing and a poorly funded mental health and substance abuse system. The Whatcom County point-in-time census of homeless residents indicates that from 2012-2019, the county's homeless population has grown from an estimated 493 to 700 people. 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 temporary encampments and interim housing are allowed and under what circumstances. As such, the City recently adopted Ordinance 2018-10-019 for temporary homeless shelters (i.e. temporary building encampments, temporary tent encampments, temporary tiny house encampments, and temporary safe parking areas). A separate ordinance is being considered for interim housing, facilities of a longer operational duration than temporary shelters. The new regulations reflect state law and best practices from other communities.

Public Comment 

The public is invited to submit comments throughout the legislative process. Written comments may be sent to 210 Lottie St., Bellingham WA 98225 or submitted via email to:

*NOTE: Additional comments may have been received by the Mayor's office directly and placed in individual meeting packets, which can be found by searching for the City Council meeting date at www.cob.org/meetings.

Interim Housing

Planning Commission Meetings​

City Council Meetings​

November 7, 2019​ - Work Session to discuss a draft ordinance establishing interim housing regulations. January 27, 2020 - The City Council will hold a public hearing on the Interim Housing Ordinance​
POSTPONED! March 14, 2019 -
January 31, 2019 Public Hearing
October 18, 2018 Work Session
September 20, 2018 - Work Session

Temporary Shelters 

Planning Commission Meetings​

City Council Meetings​

November 7, 2019Public Hearing to consider amendments to the temporary shelter regulations to allow temporary encampments in buildings to be established in Public zoning districts through a Type II review process and to exempt very short-term adverse weather shelters​January 27, 2020 - The City Council will hold a public hearing regarding the amendments to the Temporary Shelter Regulations​
August 9, 2018 Public Hearing

August 26, 2019 - The City Council approved an interim ordinance

October 22, 2018 - The City Council approved Ord 2018-10-019

Key Points for Temporary Shelter Ordinance

October 8, 2018 - Work Session
September 24, 2018 - Public Hearing ​


Temporary Shelters and Interim Housing

Planning Commission Meetings

June 7, 2018 - A second work session was held to continue the discussion from April 26, 2018. 

April 26, 2018 - A work session was held to discuss requirements for temporary shelters and interim housing for the homeless.