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 2012-2018, the county's homeless population grew steadily, from an estimated 493 to 815 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

POSTPONED! March 14, 2019 - The Planning Commission will hold a work session on the draft interim housing ordinance.

January 31, 2019 The Planning Commission held a public hearing on the draft interim housing ordinance.   

October 18, 2018 The Planning Commission held a work session to discuss the draft new chapter establishing interim housing regulations.  

September 20, 2018 - The Planning Commission held a work session to discuss the draft regulatory approach for interim housing.


Temporary Shelters 

City Council Meetings

October 22, 2018 - The City Council approved Ordinance 2018-10-019 on third and final reading. The ordinance went into effect on November 6, 2018.

October 8, 2018 - The City Council Committee of the Whole held a work session on the draft ordinance for temporary shelters. City Council (6-0 vote) approved the draft ordinance as amended on first and second reading. 

September 24, 2018 - A public hearing was held for the consideration of a draft ordinance establishing regulations for temporary homeless shelters.

Planning Commission Meetings

August 9, 2018 - A public hearing was held for the consideration of a draft ordinance establishing regulations for temporary homeless shelters.


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.