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Neighborhood Involvement

Building inclusive, safe and livable neighborhoods and communities.

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Siting Guidebook for Neighbors

Siting Guidebook for Neighbors

What are Community Residential Facilities?
Community Residential facilities provide places to live with 24-hour on site services for adults and children needing assistance or supervision and are often referred to as "special needs housing".

Examples of Community Residential Facilities:
· Group homes for Adults or youth transitioning to the community from correctional facilities
· Group homes for persons recovering from alcohol or drug addiction
· Shelters for women and children who've been victims of domestic violence
· Shelters for homeless persons
· Residential treatment facilities for persons with a mental illness

Why is there a need for community-based special needs housing and social services?
· The movement away from placing people with disabilities, or those recovering from alcohol and drug addictions, into large institutions;
· Decreasing federal support for public and low income housing;
· Changes in family support structures; and
· Voter approved initiatives that have contributed to increased incarceration rates and support services for a larger population of parolees.
· These people are part of the community too.

What is the government's role in special needs housing?
There is no "one size fits all" answer to the question of governmental responsibility for housing or services licensing, siting, or operation. Government at all levels, may or may not have a role in special needs housing and social services. When the government has a role, the role varies, depending on the laws or regulations that dictate the provision of the housing or service. The county or state usually manages licensing or contracting of services for housing and assistance programs; the City of Portland does not license special needs housing or social service facilities. Land use siting is generally the role of city or county government.

How do Land Use laws relate to the siting of special needs housing?
In order to comply with the Federal Fair Housing Act and State of Oregon land use planning laws, the City of Portland must provide opportunities for siting special needs housing and social services without discrimination against these facilities based on presumptions about residents' or clients' behavior or disability.

Can the City dictate where a facility can be sited?
The City's Bureau of Planning can often dictate where the facility may not be sited. Special needs housing and social service uses may locate in zones where they are "allowed by right" as long as they meet all the explicit, objective standards for that use and that location, as listed in the Zoning Code. In some cases, a proposed land use is subject to a conditional use review, using an expanded set of approval criteria already listed in the Zoning Code. If the proposal meets these criteria, then it must be approved. Proposals that do not meet the conditional use criteria are denied.

How are land uses regulated?
Land uses in the City are regulated by a series of land use zones. The main categories of zones are industrial, employment, commercial, mixed-use, and residential (single dwelling and multi-dwelling). For each zone, the Zoning Code specifies which uses are allowed by right, which uses are prohibited, and which uses may be allowed if approved through a discretionary land use review, usually known as a conditional use. Typically, for example, commercial uses are prohibited in the residential zones. "Allowed by right" means that a use is allowed if it meets objective development standards listed in the Zoning Code, such as setback, parking, and building height.

What's the difference between Household and Group Living?
The regulations vary by zone and use. For example, group living is allowed by right in commercial zones. In multi-dwelling zones, small group living homes (up to 15 residents) are allowed by right and large group living homes (more than 15 residents) are considered conditional uses. In the single dwelling zones, group living homes of all sizes are conditional uses.
Household living is allowed by right in residential and commercial zones. The definition of household living includes but is not limited to:
- Families of any size plus up to five unrelated people (families can include youths under court appointed guardianship),
- Up to six unrelated people, or
- Any number of people who meet the Federal Fair Housing Act's definition of "handicapped" plus up to five unrelated people.

What criteria are used to determine if a use is allowed?
Before a conditional use is allowed, it is reviewed against a set of discretionary approval criteria usually in a public hearing. Notice, when required, is provided to the neighbors before the hearing. The criteria for group living homes and many other conditional uses focus on issues such as neighborhood livability, physical compatibility, function of the area, and public services. Hearing officers make final siting decisions for the City of Portland. Both allowed-bv-right and conditional uses must meet explicit development standards established in the Zoning Code for such rules as density, height, setbacks, and site size.

Is neighborhood notification of a siting proposal required?
Sometimes, but not always. The Federal Fair Housing Act, as amended in 1988, prohibits local governments from imposing special regulations on housing for people with special needs that would not be imposed on a related family. If notification was provided for these uses, it could be considered illegal and discriminatory.
Notice is required by law when a proposal for post-incarceration group living home undergoes a conditional use review. Notice of the conditional use application and public hearing is sent by the City's Bureau of Planning to property owners within 400 feet of the proposed site and to all neighborhood and business associations whose boundaries are within 100 feet of the site. Notice is also posted at the site.

Siting Best Practices
Although, notification of many types of facilities is not required, the Community Residential Siting Advisory Committee (CRSAC) has developed recommended siting best practices to ensure that facilities are sited in the most legal, fair, and neighborly fashion. Those recommendations are customized according to the type of facility being proposed instead of a "one size fits all" approach. Please note that not all of these recommended best practices are appropriate for every type of Community Residential Facility.

If a facility is proposed for my neighborhood, what questions should I ask?
1) What will this facility look like?
2) How will it fit into the neighborhood?
3) Are there traffic or parking issues that need to be considered?
4) How will the facility/home be operated and will the residents be supervised?
5) Has the facility operator had previous experience with this type of housing?
6) How should we interact with our new neighbors?

What about health and safety issues?
These are common concerns about special needs housing. Fair housing law does not allow people to hide behind their protected class. As a general rule, this means that people in protected classes must follow rules and regulations that govern the rest of the population. Also, fair housing laws do not cover people who are a direct threat to people or property. Because people tend to make assumptions about people they are unfamiliar with, the law does require objective proof of the threat.

What is the Community Residential Siting Program?
The Community Residential Siting Program (CRSP) is designed to address issues, questions and concerns of citizens, neighborhood associations, social service providers, and service recipients related to the siting and operations of Community Residential Facilities in Portland, Fairview, Troutdale, Gresham, Wood Village, and Multnomah County.
What are the CRSP Services
· Provide information and referral for siting-related questions
· Facilitate problem solving, strategy discussions, and resolution of specific issues arising before and during the siting process
· Mediate issues that arise after a facility has been sited
· Offer community relations services, including education and information
Note: Much of the information in this guidebook was provided by the 1996 publication "Going Home"; a discussion guide for community-based housing for those with special needs produced by the Bureau of Housing and Community Development.

Where can I find more information?
See our list of useful links, or contact Judith Mowry at 503-823-4424