Bethlehem Inn

A room at the Bethlehem Inn homeless shelter in Bend.

Cities and counties are empowered to waive some requirements to allow the siting of emergency shelters and temporary housing under a bill that is headed to Gov. Kate Brown.

The Senate passed House Bill 2006 without amendments on a 26-1 vote Monday.

The bill allows local governments to waive design, planning and zoning requirements for shelters or housing operated directly by them, by organizations with at least two years' experience, or by nonprofits that partner with either one.

Shelters still have to comply with some building codes and health and safety requirements. They must have access to transportation and cannot be placed in hazardous zones, such as federally designated floodplains.

This bill revives legislation that passed in the first 2020 special session (June 24-26) of the Oregon Legislature. But its waivers ended 90 days later on Sept. 28. This bill's waivers end on July 1, 2022.

Sen. Deb Patterson, D-Salem, said the shortage of housing has worsened during the coronavirus pandemic and the 2020 Labor Day wildfires. She said cities often resist state requirements.

"But this bill is different," Patterson, the bill's Senate sponsor and floor manager, said.

"Multiple cities have come out in support of the bill because they recognize the need in their communities — in every community — for us to take steps toward alleviating the suffering of our neighbors who have lost their housing. It should not take an emergency for us to recognize this need. But we are in an emergency now. We must act."

The bill was sponsored by House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, and others.

The bill also enables the Department of Housing and Community Services to provide grants and technical assistance to communities. It empowers the Department of Administrative Services to offer grants for navigation centers, if they start up by July 2022, that link people with housing and support services. The state already is supporting the Bybee Lakes Hope Center in Portland, plus centers in Bend, Eugene, McMinnville, Medford, Roseburg and Salem.

A related bill cleared the Senate on a 27-0 vote and is headed to Gov. Kate Brown. House Bill 2583 is sponsored by Rep. Julie Fahey, D-Eugene, and bars local governments from enforcing residential occupancy requirements if they are based on family or nonfamily relationships.

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