Side street

Several RVs find free parking on side streets on the North Coast.

With the North Coast’s affordable housing crisis in full swing, it is hard to defend Clatsop County’s rule about recreational vehicle living.

The rule restricts people from living in their campers, trailers and other recreational vehicles to no more than 30 days out of a 90-day period.

Simple question: Where are they going to spend the other two-thirds of the time?

In November, the Oregon Law Center contacted the county asking it to loosen up its rules, which have been on the books since the early 1980s.

In the past year, 27 violations have been reported and 11 RVs removed from locations because their occupants have fallen foul of county rules. These rules were intended for summer visitors’ parking, but the focus of the debate has changed with the housing crisis.

The issue embraces all sorts of practical matters. Neighbors understandably complain about giant rigs parked for long periods in their neighborhoods. There’s also the delicate matter of the disposal of waste.

Gail Henrikson, the county’s community development director, has the task of weighing public health with the need for compassion. We will acknowledge it’s a tough balancing act.

County Manager Don Bohn rightly says there is more awareness of the need to create an environment for affordable housing on the North Coast. While these discussions continue to take place, the pace at which the government and the private sector are turning talk into action just isn’t fast enough.

No one is suggesting that people living full time in their RVs on the side of the road is ideal. But RVs do offer a roof over peoples’ heads. A seasonal moratorium on enforcement would be a reasonable stop-gap approach while longer-term solutions are envisioned.

Many of the ideas the county is weighing, such as an inventory of county-owned properties and the creation of a homelessness fund, have been on the table for awhile. Where is the urgency?

Other communities in the western states have accepted that it is reasonable for governments to find ways to offer sites for safe overnight parking with access to sanitary facilities and sometimes even showers. Why not here?

County and city leaders have to consider more creative approaches to housing for any meaningful progress to occur.

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