Significant data demonstrates 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. Over the past five years, Whatcom County's homeless population has grown steadily, from an estimated homeless population of 493 to 742 (a 50% increase). 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 are not yet in place. As such, the City is in the process of drafting ordinances for temporary homeless shelters (i.e. temporary building encampments, temporary tent encampments, temporary tiny house encampments, and temporary safe parking areas) and long-term homeless shelters. The ordinance for temporary shelters will precede an ordinance for long-term shelters. The ordinances are being drafted to reflect state law and best practices from other cities along the west coast.
Planning Commission Meetings
August 9, 2018 - A public hearing is scheduled for the consideration of a draft ordinance establishing regulations for temporary homeless shelters.
June 7, 2018 - A second work session was held to continue the review and discussion of the draft ordinance.
April 26, 2018 - A work session was held to discuss requirements for temporary and long-term shelters for the homeless.