Council passes expansion of homeless encampment and “tiny home village” permitting

This afternoon, the City Council adopted by a 6-1 vote an ordinance that expands the maximum number of permits for sanctioned homeless encampments and “tiny home villages” that the city may issue, allows those permits to by renewed indefinitely, and streamlines other elements of the permitting process.

Here is my previous coverage on the bill as it worked its way through Council committee deliberations.

The bill increases the permit cap from the current 3 up to 40 (some existing camps and villages have been issued a catch-all “interim use” permit by the city rather than one specifically approved for encampments or villages). However, that doesn’t mean that there will suddenly be forty tiny home villages; each potential encampment must run the gauntlet of the permitting process, as well as find the funding to set up and operate the camp. In the 2020 budget, the Council added funding for two additional villages, so funding for more beyond that will require other sources to be found.

Nine last-minute amendments were considered this afternoon, of which five were adopted. Council member Pedersen brought forth three potential amendments that would add restrictions: reducing the permit cap to 15; eliminating permitting for non- “tiny home” encampments; and putting a 2023 sunset date on the authorization for permitting. All three of his amendments failed. Council member Lewis succeeded with an amendment that would require encampments and villages requiring city funding to have security plans and case management; but he failed with a sister amendment that would apply similar rules to sites not receving city funding. The remainder of the amendments were minor or technical changes.

Council member Pedersen was the sole “no” vote on the final amended bill.

The bill now goes to Mayor Durkan for her expected signature. A spokesperson for the Mayor said, “The Mayor is reviewing the amendments but has expressed support for the bill generally and expanding the city’s work on tiny home villages.” Here’s a longer statement from the Mayor’s Office:

“Mayor Durkan believes that we need to provide more shelter options and stability for our most vulnerable residents. The City’s Tiny House Villages are an important component of the City’s emergency homelessness response. Each night, the villages provide more than 300 people a tiny house structure that locks, access to restrooms and showers, case management, a kitchen and a managed community, and our tiny home villages have been proven to effectively move people out of homelessness and into permanent housing.  


Under Mayor Durkan, the City has converted previously sanctioned tent encampments to tiny home villages. Through new investment that Mayor Durkan proposed as part of her budget, all City-sponsored villages now offer 24/7 wrap-around services and case management. Seattle is recognized as a national leader using this model.  


The 2020 Adopted Budget includes new funding that would allow for additional enhanced shelter or tiny home villages. Any additional expansion beyond the 2020 funding would need to be done in the future years through an official budget process and in coordination with the King County Regional Homelessness Authority.  


Mayor Durkan looks forward to working with Council and community to determine the right path forward for expanding tiny home villages, and with the State and King County to provide additional progressive revenue sources to support them.”