States and Cities Work to Adapt Zoning Codes to Accommodate Homeless

With the nation-wide housing crisis reaching critical levels, many cities and states are working to amend their zoning ordinances to accommodate homeless shelters and transitional housing. There have been three recent examples in 2021 of city and state legislatures using zoning to create housing for the homeless.

In November, the city of St. Paul, Minnesota passed a zoning ordinance that will allow daytime homeless facilities to operate in more parts of the city. The ordinance was passed unanimously despite opposition from some business owners and residents. It also allows for these daytime facilities to be used overnight if there is a “wind chill advisory” and temperatures drop to dangerous levels. (, 2021)

Brackenridge, Pennsylvania has also given the go-ahead for a senior care facility to be turned into a homeless shelter. If the proposal passes a final approval process, the renovated shelter would be used to house families with children, with a 30-person maximum capacity. It is a small move, but if the project is successful it could be used as a model elsewhere. (, 2021)

In June, the Washington state legislature signed a bill into law which builds on an earlier law adopted in 2019. The original bill states that a city cannot prohibit any transitional or permanent supportive housing in any residential zones or zones with hotels. The new bill expands this to include indoor emergency shelters and housing. (, 2021)

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