Interim Housing Regulations

The City of Bellingham recently adopted new regulations that set zoning, health and safety standards for interim housing. Interim housing means a facility that:

  • Includes overnight sleeping accommodations for those who are homeless-on-entry, whether generally or for specific populations (e.g. youth, those with mental health challenges, families with young children, and seniors);
  • Is located in a building or other permanent structure;
  • Is of longer operational duration than a temporary shelter;
  • Hosts residents on a daily, weekly, monthly, or multiple month basis; and
  • Includes a sponsor and managing agency (i.e. non-profit, government entity or religious organization).

Key requirements include:

  • Occupancy limits apply.
  • In Residential zoning districts, direct intake of residents at the site is not allowed.
  • An operations plan that addresses site management, maintenance, and the provision of human and social services is required.
  • A code of conduct is required. At a minimum, the code is required to include a prohibition on the on-site use or sale of alcohol and illegal drugs and threatening or unsafe behavior.
  • No children under the age of 18 are allowed to stay overnight, unless accompanied by a parent or guardian, or unless the interim housing is licensed to provide services to this population.
  • For health and safety reasons, the sponsor and/or managing agency is required to take all reasonable and legal steps to obtain verifiable identification information, including full name and date of birth, from current and prospective interim housing guests and keep a log of this information.
  • People who are required to register as a sex offender are prohibited from the interim housing.
  • Should the sponsor and/or managing agency become aware of a current or prospective guest who has an active felony warrant, it is required to follow set protocol (as approved by the Bellingham Police Department) for contacting the BPD and addressing these warrants.
  • Managing agencies and the BPD shall establish requirements for appropriate access and coordination for the subject facility and its residents.
  • The sponsor or managing agency is required to coordinate with the Homeless Service Center for referrals to their program and with other providers of shelters and services for people experiencing homelessness to encourage access to all appropriate services for their guests.
  • Exceptions apply. For instance, confidential shelters are exempt from compliance with the regulations.
  • The Planning Director may require additional health and safety measures and/or grant waivers from certain requirements as part of the permitting process. Waivers must be requested by the applicant.

Please refer to Bellingham Municipal Code Chapter 20.15A for the complete set of requirements for interim housing.


The new regulations require a land use permit for all interim housing facilities in the City. The table below summarizes the permit type required for each type of interim housing facility in each zoning district. Type I and Type II permits are approved administratively by the Planning Director or designee. Type III-A permits (conditional use permits) are approved by the Hearing Examiner. Please contact the Permit Center (City Hall – 210 Lottie St., 360-778-8300) for more information.

Interim Housing Type​​Residential Single​Residential Transition Areas within Urban Villages​Institutional and Residential Multi​Commercial and Urban Villages​Public​Industrial
​- Smaller (up to 12 adults)​Type IType I​Type I​Type I​Type I​Type I
​- Mid-range (between 13 and 40 adults)​Type III-A​Type II​Type II​Type I​Type II​Type I
​- Larger (between 41 and 200 adults)​Not Allowed​Type III-A​Type III-A​Types III-A​Type II​Type I

Applying for an Interim Housing Permit

Prior to submitting an application, please complete these pre-application steps:

  • Applicants are strongly encouraged to discuss the interim housing permit process and criteria with planning staff early in the project planning process (City Hall – 210 Lottie St., 360-778-8300).
  • Written notice and an opportunity for comment must be provided to any licensed child care facility and the administration of any public or private elementary, middle, junior high or high school within 600 feet of the boundaries of the proposed site. This noticing requirement and any modification of the proposal in response to comments should occur prior to submittal of the application. This noticing requirement is separate from the standard noticing process.

The interim housing application can also be found on the City’s Land Use Application webpage. After meeting with City staff on your proposal, please fill out the application and submit it to staff in the Permit Center (City Hall – 210 Lottie St., 360-778-8300). Type I and Type II interim housing permit applications do not include a processing fee. Planning staff will assist applicants in determining if additional permits may be required.

An application fee is required to be submitted with a Type III-A interim housing application. The fee structure is as follows:

  • Type I: N/A
  • Type II: N/A
  • Type III-A: $550 + $53 (notice fee)



​Permit Center  360-778-8300