Could less parking solve the housing shortage?

City Council could vote on the amendments next week

Parking signs in downtown Portland , Oct. 15, 2015 (KOIN)
Parking signs in downtown Portland , Oct. 15, 2015 (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Some Portlanders are saying creating less parking may solve some of the city’s parking and affordable housing problems.

A group of about 50 Portland businesses have signed a petition asking City Council to get rid of parking minimums for residential developments and free street parking altogether.

A diagram from PICOC showing how reduced parking could increase affordable housing in Portland.
A diagram from PICOC showing how reduced parking could increase affordable housing in Portland.

According to their proposal, “Our free on-street parking has led to streets that are increasingly crowded with cars, while building additional off-street parking spaces has undermined our goals of creating an efficient, low-carbon city. Worse, these policies have contributed significantly to our growing affordability crisis and are hurting local businesses.”

City code requires buildings with 30 or more units to build parking.

“Parking requirements prevented the building of housing we sorely need at the time it was most likely to be built that will have lasting harm,” Tony Jordan said in his testimony.

The Portland Interdependent Chamber of Commerce claims forcing developers to build parking isn’t efficient, is expensive to build and is driving up rents, which leads to parking in places where it might not be needed.

“We will be the first ones to say there is a parking problem. But there is a housing affordability problem,” William Henderson with the PICOC said. “If the current solution is not working, we could try to double or triple the parking minimums and require even more parking from developers. That would hurt housing affordability making it even worse.”

Henderson cited a study in Seattle where he says parking minimums have been proven to drive up rent by at least a couple hundred dollars.

They aren’t saying the city should get rid of parking, just stop requiring developers to build it when they build apartments.

“Imagine that instead of giving residents free parking, we gave them cheaper rent and a free bus pass,” the petition says.

Sellwood resident Gail Hoffnagle isn’t sold on the idea.

“Our increasingly congested narrow streets put our pedestrians at risk of injury,” Hoffnagle said. “We need new parking regulations to be evaluated before parking minimums are eliminated.”

The Portland City Council could vote on the amendments next week.