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Officials hope allowing temporary camping will ease the burden placed on local lodging options.

PMG: FILE PHOTO  - As an influx of construction workers comes to Washington County, city officials are changing the code to allow for temporary camping permits so workers can live in RVs and modular trailer homes. The move aims to ease the added strain to the local housing and lodging market. Hillsboro residents will likely start to see more RVs and modular buildings around construction sites starting this year, part of an effort by the city to support the large influx of construction workers.

The Hillsboro City Council hopes that by amending the municipal code to allow temporary camping vehicles and shelters for construction workers, the move will ease the strain on the entire housing market.

A city staff report noted that as an influx of new construction projects hits the area, local housing options are often strapped due to the added demand. The city code doesn't currently allow for this kind of camping in construction zones.

"When major construction projects commence, the city and region often see a large influx of trades workforce, at times numbering in the hundreds to thousands, with many often coming from other regions and states," says the city staff report. "This inbound workforce often utilizes area lodging options such as hotels/motels, extended stay suites, bed and breakfasts, and homes for rent. This can have a great economic benefit but can also put increased pressure on the area's existing, very tight housing market."

Not only are construction projects naturally ramping up as warmer weather comes, but the many projects that were put on hold during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic have also come to a head. The pandemic has also generally put a strain on lodging options, as hotels and motels struggled during the peak of lockdowns, the staff report notes.

"Due to some of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and the lingering effects, lodging capacity has seen impacts, as well as a shift in preference from some of the inbound trades to other housing options," the report says.

Hillsboro has also been using temporary permitting to support the healthcare industry, through temporary use and public safety permits to operate pop-up vaccine clinics and testing sites to address the pandemic.

The code doesn't normally allow the city manager to provide temporary permits beyond 90 days without council approval. Part of the code amendments allow these permits to be extended or provided for longer periods without a council vote.

The ordinance approving changes to the municipal code passed unanimously on a vote by the councilors present at the city meeting on Tuesday, April 19. Councilors Olivia Alcaire and Gina Roletto were absent, making the approval vote 4-0.


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