Portland code enforcement officers will shuffle to the bottom of the pile complaints about people sleeping illegally in RVs or tiny homes on private property Commissioner Chloe Eudaly announced Sunday.
Her decision not to have the Bureau of Development Services, which she oversees, strictly enforce city code restrictions on the temporary and semi-permanent sleeping quarters is motivated by her concern for city residents who can’t afford housing in Portland’s tight market, she said.
Right now in Portland, it’s illegal to sleep anywhere outside your home. That includes children camping in the backyard for a night. The ordinance is rarely enforced. Enforcement is prompted only by complaints.
Only a few dozen complaints are phoned in each year, said Eudaly’s chief of staff Marshall Runkel.
As of this week, however, even those will be made a very low priority. Eudaly’s decision to back off enforcing rules against sleeping in vehicles or unpermitted tiny homes on private property was first reported Monday by Willamette Week.
The leniency on RVs that meet basic health and safety standards will continue as long as the City Council’s declaration that Portland is in a housing crisis. The council last week extended such an edict through April 2019.
Eudaly plans to introduce an ordinance that would make permanent rules around tiny homes that complies with Oregon law. For the time being, the bureau will allow up to three tiny homes on business or church property and one tiny home or RV on residential property.
“Housing is a basic need and a human right,” Eudaly said. “We have failed to keep up with demand for affordable housing for decade.”
Eudaly announced the change at a gathering at the Leaven Community Center, a spiritual social-justice organization.
“We’re hearing stories again and again from people who were in tiny houses and were either worried or had been forced out because of compliance,” Runkel said.
The tiny homes and RVs must still meet basic safety and sanitation guidelines, which the Bureau of Development Services is finalizing, he said. Those will align with the city’s crusade against decrepit RVs with non-functional electric or wastewater systems.
About 300 illegally parked RVs have been towed off city streets and public property since November, when a new program that stepped up enforcement began. That program will continue, Runkel said.
“Anything that would be a danger to the occupants of an RV or the residents of the property or to neighbors, we need to preserve our ability to get those things off the street,” Runkel said.
A property owner who hosts a tiny house or RV also must consent to people living there.
If a code enforcement officer finds a tiny home or RV out of compliance, the property owner can still be fined for allowing someone to sleep there, Runkel said.