(Video: City of Portland)
At City Hall on Wednesday, a searing picture of what it means to be a low-income renter, looking for space in Portland’s housing crisis.
At City Hall on Thursday, a seemingly earnest discussion of whether it’s fair to charge cars more than $0 for taking up space.
Nobody is claiming that an opt-in neighborhood parking permit system — the main measure the city is considering — is anything close to a solution for Portlanders searching for housing amid one of the country’s worst housing shortages. Still, it was odd this week to watch Portland’s City Council lament as if capitalism mandated that even the very poor must pay for 130 square feet of bedroom, and then 21 hours later debate whether the government should continue to guarantee free 130-square-foot parking spaces almost everywhere in the city.
The city is not debating whether to stop requiring driveways bigger than cars to be built into most residential lots, whether or not the person moving in is going to need them.
The city is not debating whether to stop requiring most new apartment buildings to include on-site parking whether or not there is lots of open space on nearby streets.
The city is not debating whether to require apartment landlords to charge for garage or parking lot spaces separately from rent.
The city is not even debating whether to force anyone to start paying a penny for a curbside parking space unless people who live in nearby residential zones vote for it.
All of those measures are seen, on some level, as politically impossible.
It’s impossible, the thinking goes, to explain to the public (or maybe to politicians) that once you sweep all the details away, it just makes no sense to have a city where a particular type of expensive machine can almost always be stored for free but every other object in society — refrigerators, bookshelves, toilets, grandfathers — is expected to pay market rate for the space it takes up.
It’s impossible, the thinking goes, for the public to understand that when the government offers free or cheap on-street parking, four dumb things happen simultaneously:
• Tenants park on the street instead of paying landlords what it costs to build on-site garages, so landlords distribute some or all of the cost of those parking garages among every tenant in the building, driving the price of new housing units up as much as 63 percent.
• If the rental market won’t bear those extra costs, then the building never gets built.
• Subsidized parking makes people own more cars, which drives up the price of building new homes, which further reduces the number of places where additional homes can profitably be built.
• The physical space required for all those cars to park for free, both on the street and almost everywhere else they go, pushes everything further from everything else, making it almost impossible to create more of the dense, walkable, pre-automotive neighborhoods where low-car life is actually viable. As the country’s population rises, the pre-automotive neighborhoods that remain are continuing to get scarcer.
Instead of trying to explain these admittedly complicated ideas — or even the simple but foreign-sounding notion that a parking space is real estate in exactly the same way that a bedroom is — Portland is trying to explain one thing.
It’s trying to explain that if you don’t want it to be annoying to find a parking space on your street, one alternative is to to start charging people money to park there.
Every other option leads in only one direction: even higher housing prices.
Fortunately, the Portland City Council’s work session on parking yesterday offered some hope that Portland’s staff and city council understands this. Here’s paid-parking and housing-affordability advocate Tony Jordan, tweeting from the work session about the manager who’s overseeing the city’s modest parking reform effort:
"Managing the system badly is NOT an equity strategy." Excellent point from Judith Gray #pdxparking
— Tony Jordan (@twjpdx23) October 8, 2015
Here’s Jordan on Transportation Commissioner Steve Novick’s understanding of parking economics, spelled out most famously by UCLA professor Donald Shoup:
.@NovickOR is a total Shoupista. He gets it. Can he steer smart policy through the political process? I hope so. #pdxparking
— Tony Jordan (@twjpdx23) October 8, 2015
From comments at the session, it’s clear that Mayor Charlie Hales is on board with this very modest measure of giving neighborhoods the option to vote on whether to start charging for overnight parking on residential streets.
It’s also clear that Commissioner Amanda Fritz is uneasy about any changes to the parking status quo. In this exchange with Novick, she argued that the city should issue more street parking permits in neighborhoods than its streets have room for, because she sees that as a way to let residents decide their parking fate.
As is often the case on transportation issues, Commissioners Nick Fish and Dan Saltzman are the swing votes.
Though a sensible parking system is just one of many, many measures that could help fix Portland’s housing crisis, one wonders whether Fish and Saltzman see any connection between Wednesday’s discussion of Portland’s shortage of space for people and Thursday’s discussion about its continuing policy of guaranteeing free space to cars.
Correction 10/12: A previous version of this post said the city requires most single-family residential lots to build space for two cars. In most cases, the city requires space for one car plus an additional 10 feet.
Michael Andersen was news editor of BikePortland.org from 2013 to 2016 and still pops up occasionally.
could a non-resident rent a parking space to live in? or several?
That is an interesting question. After all your typical central eastside lot is 50′ street exposure. 40′ x 8′ shipping containers are one of the standard readily available sizes which are also code compliant for permanent building structures. Which means that it would be possible to put a 320 sq foot ADU (which would make for a decent studio apartment) in the street parking spots of most houses on the east side.
Fast, cheap, easy and solves a problem….thus it will never happen.
Funny idea to think about: your idea of shipping containers curbside, used for living spaces. Very doubtful that many people would support putting a wall of shipping container ‘living spaces’ adjacent to the lanes of travel on the street. Like a kind of oppressive ‘tunnel’ effect that would be, I suppose. Worse than having motor vehicles parked there.
Major lol during the bit about storing “grandfathers” for free. 🙂
To be clear, that wasn’t meant to be derogatory – what’s derogatory (at least to me) is the city’s policy that subsidizing space for cars is more important than subsidizing space for grandfathers.
You were clear. That made me laugh also — a tasteful and nicely timed bit of levity.
Oh, absolutely, did not interpret it as derogatory at all. Totally got the point. Just loved it as the end of a list that included refrigerators & toilets, that’s all. 🙂
Yes it is the old issue I used to call: “housing for people or housing for cars.”
should we put grandpas curbside? maybe an ADU next to the streetside dining venues?
“,,,what’s derogatory (at least to me) is the city’s policy that subsidizing space for cars is more important than subsidizing space for grandfathers.” Michael Andersen (News Editor)
And you know it to be a ‘fact’ that this is a city policy. That’s certainly ‘terrifically’ funny. Trying to spin the city’s parking dilemma as if the city regarded motor vehicles and the need for the people owning them, and that live in the city, as some kind of corporate personification…doesn’t change the simple fact that people’s need for cars and places for them to be readily available, is to a great deal, directly connected to their ability to get to and from their jobs.
Tri-met likely doesn’t have anywhere near the capacity or system reach to transport all those people to and from their jobs, not to mention shopping, recreation, school, church… . As fine as it would be to have a basic cycle track ‘protected bike lane’ system throughout the city…more, better bike lanes and neighborhood routes supportive of biking, there are many people for whom biking never will be a realistic means of meeting their travel needs.
Space created in apartment buildings and on apartment sites, and on the street, is not wasted space. Should the need for parking cars at those locations, diminish for some reason, that space can easily be re-purposed to fill some other need.
It’s kind of funny to refer to parking created for cars as ‘housing’ cars. Beyond the laughs, the situation of having to provide basic essentials necessary for a city to be functional, is a serious one in need of some solid ideas.
Fritz’s objections were incoherent to me. She’s concerned that the permit system might prevent new residents from getting passes if the passes were already allocated. (This is probably a red herring, most neighborhoods have plenty of curb space per house in aggregate.)
I believe her example was that a mother carrying kids and groceries needs to be able to park near her home, so she should be able to get a pass even if this means that there are more passes than parking spots.
She understands that this might mean that the same mother could come home to find out that all of the spots in the permit district are occupied, but she’s fine with that because the mom knew what she was getting into when she moved there and at least she has a chance of finding parking.
I can’t understand why she thinks it’s better to create a frustrating oversubscribed parking district rather than letting new residents know up front that if they want/need a car, they may wish to look in another, less crowded, area.
As usual, kids are used as an example of why we need car access. As if kids didn’t exist before 1910…
To be fair to her point, we’ve spent the century crafting a world tailored to automobiles. Knowing that this is possible:
makes me sympathetic to parents who feel like they have to put their children in cars to keep them safe.
Oh, I absolutely agree. We need to change the rhetoric from “I need a car for my child’s safety” to “how can we design our city so that we don’t need to drive our kids everywhere?”.
“As usual, kids are used as an example of why we need car access. …” herstein
“…“how can we design our city so that we don’t need to drive our kids everywhere?”.” herstein
How can cities in the U.S. redesign themselves in ways that would substantially reduce the need for people to have their kids be driven everywhere, and still be cities that people would want to continue living in?
Look across the ocean to the oft cited cities, Amsterdam and Copenhagen for already existing examples of cities being able to be designed in ways to support walking, ‘biking, free range kids’, etc,, almost absolutely better than it seems almost all U.S. cities do. Still, there’s apparently no rush for, and little demand for that kind of city design here in the U.S. Possibly in part because people here may like the idea in conversation, but don’t actually want to live in a city where their use of a car to get around may not be an option.
That same story made me wish for a geopolitical event that would immediately triple US gasoline prices and force many of us to suddenly reasses our “need” to drive every place we have to go. The right turn can be forced by sticking a wall in front of someone.
To be fair, she was jaywalking and not crossing at a light. There are no lights there..yes..but she wasn’t carrying her kid and he was run over. As a parent, it’s my responsibility to keep my kids safe. I see parents often just let their kids run wild around parking lots and streets. So in this case, it’s harsh..but a 4 year old died who didn’t have to.
You are part of the problem.
@ who, and why ?
It was a confluence of infrastructure decisions based on prioritizing access for people who use motorized traffic over all other people.
I believe that in our lifetime there will be a cultural shift, and most people will look at that intersection and expect that it be designed for safety. For the mothers crossing the street, and for their children. Lower the speed limits. IMHO, the speed limit should never be above 20mph, maximum. Driving above 20mph may come to be understood as responsible as driving drunk.
“but a 4 year old died who didn’t have to” because he was hit by a car! one operated by a drunk driver! a driver who had a history of reckless driving!
if she were carrying all three of her children, would that somehow have made a difference in your mind? would you be less likely to blame her if all four of them were murdered?
If you think cars are part of the reason there’s a housing shortage, you fundamentally misunderstand how urban development works. A few rules:
Rule #1: The politically and monetarily powerful make the rules.
Rule #2: When anything conflicts with #1, it is modified or the powerful are otherwise compensated.
Rule #3: Housing is built for profit and those able to buy–and all that they come with.
Transportation modes aren’t the problem. A disappearing middle class, decreasing number of families with children, the limits of growth, and a city falling over itself to plan for the monied is the problem.
Ask yourself: who do you think districts like the Pearl are for, exactly? Who are the $1400 “mixed use” apartment boxes in SE Portland for? Citizens are headed either sharply downward or sharply upward, economically speaking; there isn’t much middle road.
You can send Richard Florida a big thank-you note for some of this.
I’m not saying cars are the reason there’s a housing shortage. But you’re saying that free parking for cars isn’t part of the reason there’s a housing shortage? That’s strange to me.
The tendency of local governments to plan for the monied is the main reason that parking is free. When auto parking first started to become an issue in our cities, cars were owned only by the richest. That’s why we didn’t charge money for them from the get-go the way we do for, say, cribs.
As cars gradually became available to more and more people, free parking became a bigger and bigger problem and we gradually kept layering more and more rules onto the system to make up for the fact that we didn’t charge for parking from the get-go. That’s only a small part of the reason the housing market is failing low-income Portlanders. But it’s a big part of the reason the housing market is also failing middle-income Portlanders.
I didn’t say so. I said *part* of the reason. And your article clearly links the two topics. You even say:
“That’s only a small part of the reason the housing market is failing low-income Portlanders. But it’s a big part of the reason the housing market is also failing middle-income Portlanders.”
I can’t agree at all that cars are a “big part” of the reason that middle-income Portlanders are failed by the housing market. The reason they’re failed is a complex mix of public policy, demand, and migration.
“When auto parking first started to become an issue in our cities, cars were owned only by the richest”
Was never true, and *especially* not true in the past 90-100 years. It’s well documented that the reason for explosion of car ownership was how relatively inexpensive they’ve been. It was the marketing pitch of the Model T, for example, which sold in 1925 for about $3k in 2015 dollars. Ford sold over 2 *million* Model T’s that year.
These days, it’s also well documented that middle and lower-class folks own *more* cars per capita than upper class/wealthy folks.
“These days, it’s also well documented that middle and lower-class folks own *more* cars per capita than upper class/wealthy folks.”
Lower income americans are far more likely to either not own a motor vehicle or have limited use of a motor vehicle (motor vehicle does not run) than wealthier americans.
That chart is talking about Australia, not the US. Fun with statistics.
My mistake. But your statement is still incorrect. Low income people in the usa have the lowest rate of car ownership:
Ah yes, the craptastic American Community Survey (ACS), the favorite of social scientists everywhere. A *sampling of random addresses*–which is then used to abstract across the entire 300+ million of us. The ACS is the primary part of their methodology, and the rest is even more abstract.
I studied urban planning. I’ve made extensive use of the ACS. It’s well-known that it’s “noisy” data with a lot of problems, and academics around the country have said so, repeatedly.
But it’s heretical to call it the crap it really is–random, self-reported data from self-selected people who manage to pull the form out of their junk mail and respond. Why? Because billions of dollars in grants and other funds depend on it. It can’t be disregarded, because too many people tie financial success to it being “true”. So, it keeps being trotted out as “factual” information about real people.
That’s not the view of the ACS that I got from my social science (economics) training. Sure, it’s self-reported, which limits the accuracy on some topics (e.g. you’d be surprised how few people know whether their house is heated by natural gas or electricity). But the response rate is quite high (Census dogs those people) so response bias is not a huge deal.
Ever been out to east Portland much? Lots of low incomes out here and lots and lots of cars on the road.
Right, I am definitely claiming that parking requirements are a factor in housing prices.
You’re very much mistaken that rich people own fewer cars than poor people. Households bringing in $100,000 or more are about twice as likely to own three cars as households bringing in $25k-$50k and about four times as likely as households bringing in less than $25k. Households making less than $25k are about 15 times more likely to own zero cars than households making more than $100k. Households making $25k-$50k are about twice as likely as rich households to own zero cars.
If you know where I can learn more about the history of car ownership by cohort I’d love to. The reason the Model T was such a big deal, as you say, is that it enabled large-scale car ownership. (This was after the free parking norm was established, of course.) But real wages were lower in 1925 too, so that $300 was still about one-fifth of the average household income. Factory workers could buy Model Ts, but schoolteachers couldn’t.
(Car ownership per American actually kept climbing until 1980, presumably with the richest families leading the way.)
Just to clarify on the larger issue: I totally agree that the causes of Portland’s housing problem are complicated and related to demand and migration. I think we’re arguing about the specific reasons why the market has failed to provide middle-income homes when it has succeeded at providing middle-income groceries and middle-income sweaters despite changes in the population. I am arguing that parking regulations are a big part of that market failure. You’re arguing that they aren’t. More information could be brought to bear on this question but I think it’s a reasonable disagreement to have.
One thing I learned while researching early automotive distribution for a writing project surprised me a lot at first, but immediately it made sense, in the early automotive period distribution of autos had little to do with income. It was about distances. The fastest growth in early auto adopters were rural residents, rich and poor. The economic positives of automobiles over horses for rural farmers were considerable. Of course the same economic advantages were as great or greater vs. keeping horses in the urban areas, but only the rich and commercial businesses kept horses in the city. Personal car ownership for city residents didn’t take off until later as the car companies bought up the bus and transportation companies and ran them out of the ground and developed easy financing and consumer credit so people could be enticed to buy cars.
“You’re very much mistaken that rich people own fewer cars than poor people. Households bringing in $100,000 or more are about twice as likely to own three cars as households bringing in $25k-$50k and about four times as likely as households bringing in less than $25k …” Michael Andersen (News Editor)
Is there a neighborhood, or neighborhoods in Portland, where ‘rich people’s ownership of multiple cars, is creating the affordable housing shortage being discussed? Would that be in Northwest Portland, the Pearl?. Eastmoreland, Westmoreland? Northeast Portland? Don’t rich people tend to have big fancy condos in the Pearl, with garage parking, which they likely pay for? Do you believe eliminating that parking is going to allow more space for lower income people to live?
Other than in the Pearl or maybe the South Auditorium District, doesn’t it seem likely that most rich people would choose to live out away from Downtown where they have big places with attached garages and for the most part, plenty of available curb space to park.
It’s more likely that the parking and housing crisis arises from people of far more modest income, in need of ‘a car’ rather than multiple cars, and a place for them to be readily available, to cover basic travel needs.
40+ years of wage stagnation is a very serious problem but it’s not the proximal cause of the past ~8 year of increasing rental scarcity in PDX.
Decreasing fertility generally increases available housing and increases economic productivity.
Neighborhoods with the tightest rental markets in Portland all share one common feature: absurdly-restrictive anti-renter zoning.
“a city falling over itself to plan for the monied is the problem”
This I agree with.
I’m pretty sure you mean fecundity.
Cars take up a lot of room that can otherwise be used for more housing.
parking lots are disappearing all over the city to build, wait for it……housing.
Yes, and this is a good thing!
Cars are just one reason. Zoning is another. The amount of time it takes to get a project approved is a third. What we should do is:
1. Abolish mandatory parking minimums.
2. Establish some parking permit system so that people stop using the streets as free storage.
3. Established universal high-density mixed use zoning for all of inner Portland. No set-backs required — structures can be built to the sidewalk’s edge. Anything up to 20 stories with either commercial or residential units may be built anywhere.
4. Streamline the approval process.
We could also combine this with an inclusive zoning mandate, like in the Pearl, where a lot of people with a restricted income actually do live. I don’t buy the notion that supply and demand doesn’t apply to the housing market, but I recognize that the housing market doesn’t adapt itself to new demand as quickly as it should, namely because housing takes a very long time to build. (For example, the Hassalo on Eighth project has taken two years to complete from the start of construction.) Ramping up production quickly isn’t as easy as in a factory. That said, we should make it more like factory production, and encourage prefabricated construction. Even the poor can generally afford mass produced widgets, although they sometimes have to buy them used. I don’t see why the same can’t apply to housing.
I live in one of those new expensive apartments, BTW. I’m not rich, but I have a decent job. I did, however, vacate a considerably less expensive apartment to move in here. Hence, it’s freed up for somebody else. Prior to moving into this apartment, I was competing with people making far less than me for a far crappier apartment. That’s why new supply is good.
Give me fifteen foot sidewalks with seven foot planting strips and I’m with you. Otherwise, I’m not a big fan of walking the urban canyons that those zero-setbacks create.
There comes a point in sidewalk width where sidewalks can be too wide. Downtown’s sidewalks on north-south streets are mostly 15′, and if there’s enough people to make them lively, they’re fine (including trees within that 15′) But a 15′ or 22′ sidewalk would be a lonely place in most of Portland.
In addition, many people go to Europe to see not just the wide streets, but the narrow streets (15-30′) with cute shops on them and housing right up to the street. It’s a more intimate scale, and a more human place to be. The Champs Elysee is okay for some, but many people prefer narrower streets, with (in Paris) 6-story buildings.
But of course it’s an individual choice .
>There comes a point in sidewalk width where sidewalks can be too wide.
Maybe? But just about every sidewalk in every city in the country is shifted so far the other way that worrying about a sidewalk potentially being too wide seems silly. When sidewalks are too narrow you need lots of rules to micromanage its use. A sidewalk is part of the public realm in the way a street is not. Put in wider sidewalks and they would see use.
>But a 15′ or 22′ sidewalk would be a lonely place in most of Portland.
Wider sidewalks came up in response to redeveloping low density areas with smaller setbacks. They would only come to exist in a different Portland.
>In addition, many people go to Europe to see not just the wide streets, but the narrow streets
The ‘street’ is the distance between buildings. The smaller setback would narrow the street, but not nearly enough for it to become a ‘narrow street’. If you want a narrow street you need to give up on the idea that it will serve through traffic well.
Cars and bicycles can still have access. But through traffic would have to be subservient to allowing local access if you want it to be a comfortable place to be, not just travel through.
Have you walked on narrow, crooked, cobble stone streets in European towns and cities, lop?
Not in Europe, but I have spent some time in the old city sections of Tzfat/Safed and Jerusalem. Many of the streets looked like they could offer access to the occasional motor vehicle or bicycle, but nobody would get to move fast on the narrow streets. It’s a pleasant and intimate environment. Portland isn’t set up with such a severe contrast between arterial and non-arterial streets. The closest I’ve seen here are the walkways around Lovejoy fountain pettygrove park, but even the ‘green’ setbacks between the walkway and the buildings pretty much ruin it.
Good point distinguishing between ‘street’ and ‘sidewalk’. May be wrong, but I’m thinking streets with wide sidewalks and narrower travel lanes can enhance both functionality and livability of areas that have them.
Not sure where in the city I’ve seen them depicted, but it seems there are places in NYC that have very wide sidewalks…wider than any in Portland. Lots of room for people to freely walk about, have tables set up for dining, rather than having to squeeze by as is often the case in Portland.
“But a 15′ or 22′ sidewalk would be a lonely place in most of Portland.”
During the Foster streetscape meetings many folks from around the area held the wide sidewalks between 52nd and 72nd as one of the best things about the road. People in area’s with narrow sidewalks commented how jealous they were of these great spaces.
In most commercial areas I don’t think you would get a lot of complaints about the sidewalks being too wide.
“who do you think districts like the Pearl are for, exactly?”
Among others, the one to two thousand people who live in the newly built affordable housing.
“Among others”. Good one. You mean the other 99%?
Also–please point me to where you’ve found that “two thousand” people are living in “affordable housing” in the Pearl–and what definition of “affordable” you’ve chosen to use.
If you had googled before writing a sarcastic comment, you would have learned that 48% of the Pearl’s housing is either affordable or “workforce.” We can quibble on definitions of “workforce” but the fact is that the Pearl has quite a lot of lower-income housing. It actually has a strange dichotomy of poorer people and richer people with relatively few middle-income folks. http://urbanland.uli.org/news/connecting-walkability-affordability/
Just counting the Ramona, the Sitka, Lovejoy Station, Station Place and Pearl Court you there are 904 units of affordable housing in the Pearl proper. (The number of units is a lot larger when counting The Yards, but those are technically in Old Town / Chinatown. Also, The Abigail will add another 127 units when it opens in the coming months.)
Assuming around one person per unit (which is unrealistically low) there would be a thousand residents living in publicly subsidized affordable housing. Assuming the average US household size of 2.58 people (which is probably a little high for the Pearl, but whatever) that would equate to 2,472 people.
What’s “affordable” defined as with these numbers?
Varied by building, but all are income restricted and rent at rates considerably lower than the market.
Here’s the rents / restrictions for the Sitka:
Interesting to look at these incomes:
Seems like they’re essentially encouraging single people to get into these apartments over multiples or families.
(i.e. a single person making $31K is definitely a good bit better off than a 3 person family making $36K.).
I wonder how long the waiting lists are on top of that?
A “right to the city” ? Oh please.
Sneer at that if you want. But, housing costs will for many people mean more single-occupant car commutes. I prefer to think of the housing cost problem as an energy use and climate change issue more than any kind of social justice issue. Don’t know where this quote came from, but I have seen in print a phrase something like “the environment is the visible foot that will crush the invisible hand of the market.”
“While the invisible hand looks after the private sector, the invisible foot kicks the public sector to pieces.”
― Herman E. Daly
Amen. Put that article on a t-shirt and I’ll wear it.
I hear this argument often:
“• Tenants park on the street instead of paying landlords what it costs to build on-site garages, so landlords distribute some or all of the cost of those parking garages among every tenant in the building, driving the price of new housing units up as much as 63 percent.”
It doesn’t ring true. Minimum parking requirements will mean that some projects never get built, and this will further constrain supply. Developers will guess as to what market rents will be for a particular building and use that to determine whether and what to build.
However, once buildings are built, the managers will price them as high as the market will bear. At this point, the price of rent is not driven by construction costs, it’s driven by the rental market.
Without inclusionary zoning rules or some other mechanism, there’s no reason why developers won’t use the extra space and budget to simply build more luxe units rather than increase the number and build affordable ones.
Eliminating minimum parking requirements is necessary, but not sufficient to create affordable housing. We also need to be able to require or encourage developers to use the extra space/budget in the right way.
Yep – eliminating parking requirements is definitely not going to let poor people live in new buildings. But it is (as you say) going to increase the number of homes that get built, which keeps rich people from pricing middle-class people out of old units (and so on down the line).
Alternatively, it lets us reallocate the economic loss that’s currently going to parking into something more useful, like below-market-rate bedrooms for low-income grandfathers.
I’m trying to mesh this with the 63% claim. It seems to me that the Cost of Onsite Parking document you referenced is imagining a more direct connection than easing supply constraints and trickling the benefits down to older units.
Yes, that’s true. The 63% figure imagines a fake world in which you’re building X stories on lot Y no matter what, and then successfully passing the cost on to whoever lives there. This is a useful way to look at the problem because it shows how an underground garage can be such a massive share of total cost, and therefore suggests the extent to which the supply is being constrained in a 0.75 parking spaces per unit scenario. But the constraint on supply is the more important impact on housing prices — both on the unit being built and on every other unit in the housing market. That’s why I added the bullet point that immediately follows the one we’re talking about: “If the rental market won’t bear those extra costs, then the building never gets built.”
When people talk about residential parking, folks are constantly bringing up hypothetical underground garages. The city study with the 63% figure is useful because it actually puts a hypothetical price on that hypothetical garage, so we can all understand how ridiculous underground garages are.
At least that’s the way I think about it.
I *love* that you continue to say this without providing any kind of evidence. Despite the fact that thousands of new apartments have been built recently we’re still seeing people evicted from their apartment buildings so that landlords can renovate and double the price of rent (see the recent stories in the WWeek and Mercury.
Since your entire argument rests on an Econ 101 understanding of supply and demand, let me couch the argument in a way that will make sense for you: If you are the (perfectly rational) owner of a rundown apartment building that rents its units out and $900/month near the Lloyd District and all of the sudden a bunch of luxury apartment buildings go up (like say Hassalo on 8th) and are charging $2700/month for their 2br apartments would you continue to collect the same rent or recognize the changing neighborhood and hike your rent to the point where your old tenants couldn’t afford it.
But ah, you say, wealthy people don’t want to live in old units! Well, if the landlord remodels his units he would certainly be able to recoup his investment… or he can sell the building to developers who might tear it down to build something that can command the premium they want. Once an area gets gentrified even the old units gain value, because the neighborhood itself is limited market and demand in the neighborhood will drive the price of all units up, along with the land underneath them.
Your understanding of the housing market is either naiive or tainted by your connections to developers. In the past you’ve more or less said that poor people are going to get pushed out of the central city. That’s pretty much where we’ll be if developers are allowed to raze every small house and build luxury apartments, condos, and houses where they once stood.
I agree, the fact that a bunch of out-of-town companies realized that they could charge big bucks for Portland rentals has alerted a lot of other landlords that they could do the same. Maybe you’re hoping for a world where landlords remain indefinitely uninformed about how much money they could make if they tried? Portland’s housing shortage only got really bad because building stopped during the recession, and it took a few years for landlords to figure that out.
You mention the recent WW coverage — I assume you mean the article that found rents soaring at 122nd and Division, Parkrose, Pleasant Valley and Lents? My explanation for this is that the county’s population has been growing 79 percent faster than its housing supply. What’s yours?
But building stopped because demand and immigration stopped. Why is this bad or wrong? Yes, we’re having to catch up now, but that’s kind of how it’s supposed to work. People stopped buying/renting places, and builders stop building new ones until the market stabilizes again (look at the lag at the S. Waterfront).
Immigration to Portland didn’t stop during the Great Recession – it stopped for one or two years in 2004-2005, then resumed faster than ever.
Yes, the rise in prices right now is part of what would be a natural economic cycle, but it can only correct itself if we keep building at the current rate or faster. The city’s parking requirements are already slowing the rate of building; there are lots of proposals right now that would slow it further.
Are those immigrants predominantly citizens or are they non-citizens?
What’s factors encourage them to come here?
I wonder if REIT investors have something to do with the rise in rents?
Sorry. Autocorrect change “in-migration” to “immigration”.
Where would charging for parking leave the 100’s (1000’s?) of people living in their vehicles? Would it push them farther from walkable neighborhoods, transit and services?
but you can live in a tent for free anywhere in portland right?
only if you have a large pile of bikes next to it under a tarp
I pay 200+ dollars a month for property taxes and renters do too whether they realize it or not. If you are living in a van and getting the benefits of city life maybe you ought to fork out $50 a month to use that space. If you aren’t benefiting from the city then park out on some logging road and no one will charge you. In other words, just because it’s free now doesn’t mean it ought to be free.
Parking minimums should be eliminated entirely in neighborhoods that have other options. People that want to live in neighborhoods that were designed around the streetcar with narrow lanes and plentiful sidewalks, but still want to drive everywhere miss the point entirely. It’s exactly because your neighborhood was designed for people, not cars, that makes it so appealing!
Make people pay for car registration and parking based on the neighborhood’s walk score. Higher walk score, higher price of car ownership.
If housing prices (rentals and ownership) are increasing in the inner city, then those that get bumped just move farther out…. right? This is nothing new. This is how Vancouver was born and Beaverton was ruined. Money is king, and if you are occupying a space that could be “remade” into a highly profitable cash money maker, then you better start packing your things.
I could not afford a house close-in 10 years ago, so I live out east of 205…and love it! Even though I work near the Willamette river, I find the bike commute perfect.
Sorry, maybe I am an ass (most likely), but I just don’t have a lot of sympathy for whiners.
agreed. I’m out in the SE 60s, as are many of my friends purchasing homes between 60s and 90’s. you can buy something out there for cheaper than renting a place downtown.
Exactly! Not everyone HAS to live in inner Portland. Portland has lots of pocket neighborhoods.
New apartments generally aren’t replacing older apartments. They’re replacing surface parking lots, strip malls, unremarkable one story commercial buildings, and sometimes a bungalow. Capacity is being increased.
True! http://www.nextportland.com/ has an extensive list and map of many of the new buildings being planned in the city. Most are on the site of parking lots, 1-story commercial buildings, or sometimes old single-family houses in areas zoned for higher development. Only very few are replacing current multifamily rentals, and those are usually one-floor duplexes or similar.
A lot of newer homes are replacing older ones though (I think that’s what the poster was mainly talking about).
Many renters are displaced when the owner wants to sell so the house can be remodeled or demoed.
The median bike trip to PSU was ~2.6 miles by students, ~3.2 miles by faculty. ~6 miles by car. Portland has transportation mode share goals they won’t ever meet without a change in land use, anecdotes of cyclists riding 10+ miles don’t say much of what the general public will ever be willing to sign up for.
>if you are occupying a space that could be “remade” into a highly profitable cash money maker, then you better start packing your things.
An apartment would be a more ‘highly profitable cash money maker’ than single family housing in many of the places they are prohibited. Single family zoning near in is affordable housing for rich/upper middle class people. Why rush to pack your things when you can use the power of the state to protect you. With all the calls for rent control you know which one people are going for.
“…I could not afford a house close-in 10 years ago, so I live out east of 205…” AIC
Where there is, likely to be plenty of places to park a car, on the street, apartment parking lots, or on the driveway or in the garage of people that own houses there. Unless they live right next to efficient transit, many, maybe most people that from your neighborhood, either commute downtown or have to travel outside of town, will be using that parking availability to park the car they need to go to those places.
Nice write-up. This isn’t complicated:
Step 1. Abolish mandatory parking minimums for new development.
Step 2. Abolish unlimited free parking on public streets. The street is not your free storage bin. Either charge a market rate dependent upon demand, or sell X number of residential permits and require everybody else to move their car every couple of hours.
They do this in most European cities, and it works.
I drive around Portland and see all manner of buildings that are one level and complete wastes of space. Land value alone isn’t going to solve the issue of throwing renters out on their ears like they are vermin. What is going to solve this issue is, strong civil laws that put renters back on firm legal ground with landlords. Landlords have figured out the easiest way to evict is to simply raise rents on an astronomical level.
That has to change.
When it does change, cities and states need to add treble penalties for breaking this new law so that lawyers come in and sue the landlord. That’s how warranty law for cars is enforced, that’s how this should be enforced. Just throwing some law out there without massive financial penalties is no different than throwing up a 25mph sign on the banfield.
This will happen as soon as the world we live in isn’t ruled by greedy friend
By the way, NYC–by all accounts one of the densest cities in the country–has a ~54% transit ridership rate.
It’s housing is some of the least affordable in the world.
It’s also predicted to approach 24-hour gridlock by around 2030.
That’s right: NYC has dense urban dwellings, extremely high public transit ridership, AND gridlock.
Why do so few understand that this isn’t a game of SimCity?
New York is dense, but it doesn’t build many new buildings in comparison to similarly dense cities like Tokyo: https://nextcity.org/daily/entry/tokyo-housing-high-rise-cost-new-york-housing
Tokyo makes it easier to build new structures to accommodate demand, and therefore the rents are stable and somewhat downward trending: https://nextcity.org/daily/entry/japan-shows-the-way-to-affordable-megacities
I’m aware that Japan’s population is sinking, but the population of Tokyo itself has risen about ten percent in the past decade.
Gridlock will remain a problem in dense cities that continue to encourage automobile travel. Obviously, the denser the city, the less feasible it is for everybody to drive, given that cars occupy a lot of real estate both when parked and when moving. The solution is to discourage driving — remove streetside parking, implement congestion pricing, remove lanes while widening sidewalks and bike lanes, etc. Density has the advantage of making everything more convenient for pedestrians and cyclists and LESS convenient for motorists. We basically have to choose — would we prefer an extremely low density like Dallas or Houston, where driving is necessary (and where gridlock happens despite the low density), or would we prefer a high density city where everything that you’d possibly need to access on a daily basis is less than a half hour away by bicycle?
NYC is only highly dense in the center. The vast majority of the metropolitan area (stretching into northern New Jersey and SW Connecticut) is zoned for single-family detached houses with lots of free parking, with areas of strip malls and office parks and big highways.
The density of the New York City urban area is less than 5000 per square mile, about the same as Los Angeles (due to the mountains around LA limiting the supply of land for exurban sprawl). NYC does have a relatively high average density of 31,000 when weighted by population, twice as high as Los Angeles, but this is much lower than the density of many global cities with fewer zoning and building limits.
Tokyo’s density is more than twice as high: it has 50% more people in 2/3rds the land area. Paris has half the population of NYC in 1/5th the land. Seoul has 22 million (2M more than NYC) in 1/5 the area of New York.
They build up, which you see now. Wait ten years. It’s the “only viable option” if pdx keeps being the place to be and retains the growth boundaries.
Could we give residents free secured car parking at a lot somewhere on the outskirts of town but near enough to public transportation that it can be easily accessed 24/7?
Even Crawford of CarFree Cities made concessions to the fact that car ownership can be useful outside a walkable city. So, he imagined districts on the periphery of the city where car owners could store the vehicles they don’t need in town.
Basically, the requirement to provide parking could be adjusted to allow for parking much further away.
It’s a good idea, part of what’s good about it is that it makes one come to terms with how much space cars take up. PDX has pace for 14,000 cars at its different lots… but how many more places do we want to devote to that kind of parking wasteland?
Great article Michael Anderson!
It’s insane that we’re talking about a housing state of emergency, but not talking about a policy change a few years ago that many predicted would restrict the supply of new housing and push developers towards fewer-unit, higher-end construction.
I agree with those who say the housing crisis is man-made, but I don’t think it was made by wall street or developer boogeymen. It was made by regular Portlanders who refused to make room.
“It was made by regular Portlanders who refused to make room.”
Ah, yes. The Iron Law of Accommodation.
One of the more ridiculous stories and or reasonings I’ve read in awhile. So, when I plant a tree in my own home, eventually I will have to pay for the space (up) by the author’s “reasonings”. Making a minor problem into a major one. It’s simple. Most of the neighborhoods weren’t designed for the ” growth” so learn from this. If you are a resident, you get a permit to park your dumb car-FOR FREE-because of the TAXES you pay that go to road maintenance. The city and or property management hires a enforcement or parking cop to ticket those who do not live in said area and would be self sufficient. Period. Portland is getting dumb and is being ruined by this growth. It’s now ridiculously expensive and we have problems with no problem solvers. It’s all about the dollar bill at the end of the day, which gets passed down to us all. “Oh, what if I want to see eagle eye scout for coffee on Hawthorne, but there’s no parking*. Go to one of the 200 Starbucks that was BUILT WITH PARKING and get a god damn clue…or don’t drive EVERYWHERE! Anyone noticing or thinking ahead how RIDICULOUS we’ve made our lives when we have to worry about where to put 4000lbs of steel????
It’s odd to me that residential owners complain about people parking on “their” street. Who is stopping the resident from installing a driveway? Parking requirements for new buildings is asenine. If the builder thinks they can get money for it…great. If not…let the street hold them. Of demand grows for parking, let the city sort it out with a fee. No resident is owed a parking spot in front of their house. Ever. Unless that resident pays for that street and owns it.
No resident is owed a place to park a bike, either.
That’s true. However, the city sees a net benefit to both the city and the user by providing bike parking. It also provides limited places to park cars and deliver goods. Outside of those areas, there is no benefit to promise car parking. Bike parking however does provide a benefit everywhere.
>the city sees a net benefit to both the city and the user by providing bike parking
If the city removes one or two car parking spots on the corner and replaces them with bike racks that can serve more people and improve viewing angles then the city sees a net benefit. Not sure the same can be said for some racks that have been installed on sidewalks that were already pretty narrow to begin with.
I did not hear Justin speak about car parking driving up rents – that’s because it has no effect on rents. However, pay-to-park drives up the cost of living for everyone – but hurts the poor the most.
Residential lots with driveways only wide enough for 1 car are not a good solution because most couples who work have 2 cars.
Neighborhoods where there is no parking is not viable because people who move there because a job is within walking distance, will likely get another job soon and have to drive to the new job since public transport to many locations is too slow and inconvenient due to bus/train transfers, etc. People do not want to have to move every time they get a new job – as Justin explained they can’t afford to just get up and move.
The fact is that on-street parking is the way it is because it works very well. If there had been a better system, that system would have been built. People across America expect to have free on-street residential parking – that’s the way it has always been as long as anyone can remember.
The fact that people are unwilling to pay the fee to park in parking garages proves that people don’t want to pay for parking. Or perhaps the fee is too high, but given the choice of free or not free people will choose free every time. Contrary to popular belief, American’s aren’t totally stupid.
The video reminds me of the unhappiness and social unrest in parts of Europe due to their current economic depression. Makes me wonder how bad our trillions of debt and governmental meddling will eventually become here in the US.
Dead Salmon, if the current parking system works so well, then why do I hear so many people complaining about it?
“Residential lots with driveways only wide enough for 1 car are not a good solution because most couples who work have 2 cars.”
Why can’t people just park one car in front of the other? I know some driveways will actually fit only one car, but most I see are long enough for 2-3.
To add to davemess’s point –
You, Dead Salmon, wrote: “most couples who work have 2 cars”
Do you actually know this?
They’re projecting a gradual decline, but from what baseline?
2014 ACS ~79k households with 2 workers, ~3k have zero vehicles available, ~21k have one vehicle available. Almost 70% have at least two vehicles.
Parking isn’t a problem if you know what you are doing:
Why is this story even on BIKE Portland?
Because you can’t have a bike-friendly city without proximity being affordable.
Are there any cities in the US that have affordable close-in living and which are good biking cities?
Good question. If anyone knows the answer, that would get a great article for bikeportland
Portland back in 2002?
Agreed. Except that proximity and affordability are and will remain chimeras as long as we persist in ignoring the longage of people streaming here, because it is a thorny subject we’d rather not talk about.
You can still have a bike friendly city, but it will mostly be for the middle-upper classes (kind of like it is already now).
But why can’t you make further out/cheaper areas bike friendly?
As long as cars are the dominant mode it will remain difficult to make inroads. We’re I think conflating automobility and population pressures, which combine to dim the prospects of growth in bicycle mode share.
I think it’s more like “as long as we still have this ridiculous at-large system of local government” it will remain difficult to make inroads.
I don’t necessarily agree with this, because what I continue to read here implies that locations with less density are inherently not bike-friendly. What it takes to make a city bike-friendly is not density, it’s a governing body that remains committed to doing so, collaborating with educated stakeholders on the implementations, and augmented by culture and enforcement that’s willing to make sure the streets stay under control.
Oh, and funding.
I believe part of the solution needs to be a regional housing plan with teeth that requires new office space to be matched with an equivalent amount of housing. The cities permit new office space, so they can require that the developer either plan or partner with another developer to build enough housing regionally to accommodate the amount of new workers that will occupy there new office space.
Also I think it may be counterproductive to push for only “affordable” new housing. We just need more total housing space. Some people will always be looking to move up the housing ladder to a nicer place, due to promotions, because they become dual income, etc. The space they vacate then becomes open affordable housing. It just a PEZ puzzle. You need to create the space first, then it allow people to shift around. Affordable housing should be the older places, not the fancy new buildings. Pushing developers to build brand new affordable housing will only slow down the process of increasing total housing.
In the meantime, while housing is catching up, the region can use taxes to put the breaks on corporate expansion in the area, opposite to what SF did. Then when housing catches up they can ease back up to keep the local economy healthy.
We also need zoning reform big time, to allow the new housing to be built.
The city will tell you their hands or tied and they can’t do anything. Its not true…they could do a lot. They are just doing their job.
Government can never respond to the needs of the people better than the market acting freely.
Government has probably contributed significantly to the problem. I see they slap builders who tear down an old house and build a new one with a $25,000 fine – that was on page A6 in the Oregonian today or yesterday. The old house would rent for about the same as the new house assuming similar square footage, but the new home would have lower utility bills – thus, we the people, are forced to live in old homes with high rent AND high utility bills.
As government adds more regulations and fees on people in the urban core, more and more will move out to the suburbs where it is more affordable. The regulations and fees (like the much-discussed parking fees) just cause urban sprawl as people flee to the edges of the megalopolis.
The fees required to build a new home in Portland cost many 10s of thousands of dollars. Businesses are swamped with fees from all levels of government. Those fees drive up prices of homes and goods/services provided by the businesses and the business owner then has less money to pay their employees. High fees equal high costs and low pay for people.
The caption provided for the video at top (…”Portland renters have a “right to the city” that is being denied by rising prices”) is a key element in the failure of Portland — or ANY popular “destination” city — as remaining “affordable”.
We live in a Capitalist economy. Privately-owned, profit-driven.
It is very nearly impossible for Capitalism NOT to run away with itself.
History has shown us this time and again. (Go back and read Heilbrunner, econ students.)
An economic system based on self-interest does not generally place the notion of “human rights” at its core. And as we’ve all seen, those with the most power to lose [in a more equitable system] will spend the most money to keep things as they are.
Granted, this is an oversimplified assessment of the issue.
But as the middle class rapidly shrinks into extinction and the gap between “haves” and “have-nots” stretches wider, we will have less and less room for nuance in the discussion. I do not hold out much hope that things will greatly improve here.
I no longer fancy myself as part of the “middle class”, even though my partner and I pay a mortgage instead of rent. When I realized how hard I’d have to work and how much money I’d have to earn to maintain the illusion, I stopped telling myself that lie. The illusion is not attainable for us.
Before my life is over, I fully expect to be squeezed out of my home, and out of Portland. I am spending my limited resources acquiring new skills, networking like mad and checking out other possible cities for eventual relocation, instead of fighting a battle I know I cannot win.
Capitalism definitely sucks – it’s hard. Problem is that no one has found a better way. Lots of people around the world are coming to our capitalist hell hole – and hundreds of millions more would like to come here. Few are trying to get out. Many want to get out because it sucks and it is hard, but when they start looking around, the alternatives are not good. We ARE the best looking horse at the glue factory.
Article on why rents are high:
His number 1 reason why rents are so high:
People with money want to live there.
That was a really excellent piece. Thanks for the link, Mr. Dead Salmon.