Seattle City Council votes to allow more tent cities, tiny houses

SEATTLE -- The Seattle City Council has voted to allow the creation of up to 40 tent cities, tiny house villages, or parking lots where people living in their cars can camp — a sharp increase from the number the city currently allows.

The Seattle Times reports the ordinance approved Tuesday reflects a dramatic shift in Seattle’s attitude toward these temporary places for homeless people to live while waiting to get into housing: It allows encampments to exist indefinitely with renewal of a permit once a year and allows them in residential zones.

The first city-permitted tent cities opened in 2015. Because of opposition at the time, the city adopted legislation, which expires next month, that applied a built-in sunset to some of the villages.

This new ordinance has no such end date. Sponsored by Councilmember Kshama Sawant, the legislation makes it easier to site these “transitional encampments” on land owned by religious organizations, the county and the state. It would also allow encampments in residential zones.

Six of the nine councilmembers voted in favor of the ordinance; councilmembers M. Lorena González and Teresa Mosqueda weren’t present, and Alex Pedersen voted “no.”

“This is really a tent encampment expansion instead of tiny house villages, as the ordinance was originally advertised,” Pedersen said to his fellow councilmembers.