PORTLAND, Ore. — After nearly four years under a state of emergency, Portland’s city council Thursday is set to vote on whether the city’s current housing landscape warrants the longest extension yet: two years.
First declared by then Mayor Charlie Hales in 2015 and extended twice since then, the state of emergency allows the city and county to simplify and expedite processes aimed at growing the housing inventory and helping homeless people get off the streets.
For instance, it allows officials to move quickly in opening temporary homeless shelters or trying new, out-of-the box pilot projects, like a free two-day program to help homeless people store their belongings.
It also gives the city the power to waive zoning codes and speed up approval processes needed to build affordable housing.
According to the agenda item, introduced by Mayor Ted Wheeler’s office, "Portland added 7,300 units to the housing stock in 2017 even as multifamily permitting set a historic high at over 6,000 permits."
The item goes onto state that "the production of affordable housing units also reached an all-time high, with more than 800 newly affordable units available for occupancy in 2018 — the largest number ever produced in a single year."
Officials wrote the additions were needed, as an estimated 60,000 new residents moved to Portland between 2010 and 2017, growing the city’s population by 11 percent.
According to Multnomah County’s most recent Point In Time Count, a historically biannual process mandated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, on any given night an estimated 4,177 people were experiencing homelessness in Multnomah County.
That’s a 9.9 percent increase from 2015.
However, the number of people who were actually "unsheltered" on the night of the count, 1,752, fell close to 12 percent from 2015, showing that while there’s a growing number of people experiencing homelessness in and around Portland, more of them are sleeping in shelters or transitional housing.
The city’s option to extend the state of emergency comes alongside a record investment in alleviating homelessness.
During the 2018-2019 fiscal year, the city allocated $31.2 million to the Joint Office of Homeless Services.
Thursday’s vote is scheduled for 2 p.m.